BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Fighting back tears, Picabo Street made her first appearance since her devastating crash Thursday, a spirited talk to 600 cheering girls at Nike headquarters for "take your daughter to work day."
"I'm kind of emotional," she told them. "My life is crazy right now. My life is the happiest it's ever been because I won a gold medal -- but at the same time I'm broken inside."
Then she set aside her crutches and spent the entire time hobbling carefully on her own.
"I'm not supposed to do this," she whispered into the microphone. "Don't tell my doctor."
Street told the girls she's "kind of been hiding" since her March 13 crash in the women's downhill in the World Cup Finals at Crans Montana, Switzerland. She broke her left leg and tore up her right knee just one month after coming back from another severe knee injury to win the gold medal in the super-G at the Nagano Olympics.
After a difficult time coming to terms with the severity of her injuries and the uncertainty of her future, Street said she's feeling better about things now.
In an interview Thursday, she said that when she had her knee operation two weeks ago, the damage was not nearly as bad as was earlier thought, much less severe than to her left knee after a December 1996 crash.
"Psychologically, I know it's going to be much easier to come back from," she said. "I already have 90 percent flexion without a problem, so I know getting the rest of my flexion isn't going to be hard at all. It's probably going to take me about a week once I get the go to do it. And the left leg is healing phenomenally."
When a girl asked if she would come back to ski in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Street sounded more optimistic than she did a month ago.
"I honestly don't think I could pass up the chance to race in the Olympics," she said to whoops and cheers.
In her interview, she said she knows people look at her situation and doubt that she can come back.
"I think more people think `My gosh, why should she?"' Street said. "I've had some people just flat out say, `You're not going to ski anymore are you?' I say, `Yeah, actually, I think I am."'
She's in no hurry, though. She will take the next year off, perhaps serving as a television commentator for the World Championships next February at Vail, Colo.
Still, there is a timetable developing in the back of her mind.
"I've been thinking about 2001-2002," Street said. "Maybe I'll ski 2000 just to get back into it, maybe ski my way into shape and kind of grunt through the points so I can charge in 2001 and 2002."
Her immediate concerns are getting the metal plate out of her left leg and then allowing the holes where the screws have been placed to heal so she lessens the chance of another break.
Meanwhile, she's climbing back on the publicity-endorsement circuit. She filmed a Chapstick commercial on Wednesday, and will make periodic appearances for her various sponsors through the summer and fall.
One of the kids asked her what she would do after her skiing career is over. Maybe a television talk show, she said, and some motivational speaking.
"And someday I'm going to be a mom and have some little girls of my own," she said.
That brought another round of cheers.
When it was over, Street shouted, "Remember, follow your dreams!" and then was mobbed.
A Nike official reminded the youngsters that the company doesn't allow autographs, so Street passed out hugs instead.
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