“Pain Couldn’t Stop Me—or My Mom”

Skiing legend Picabo Street shares how she overcame crushing knee and leg injuries to compete her final Olympic race. Equally amazing? Her mom, Dee, was right there to cheer her on—despite RA!

Linda Childers
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Pidabo Street, Olympic, Rheumatoid Arthritis, RA

Picabo said it was painful to watch her mom “train” for months just to be able to watch her final run at the Olympics. By the time she zipped down the slope for the last race of her career, says Picabo, it didn’t matter that she’d come in 16th. “I had set myself for qualifying, and after that, that was it. I got to get back on the horse and I got to compete at home, with the home crowd.”

And Dee Street was there in the stands to see her do it. “It couldn’t have been better,” says Picabo. “I’ve always admired her perseverance. Despite having RA, my mom has always kept moving.”

The skiing legend sums it up like this: “It’s really tough being hurt as an athlete. My setbacks were a time when I learned the most about myself—it’s when you rise up.”

How Picabo helped her mom through double knee replacement!
After her daughter’s triumphant appearance at the 2002 Olympics, Dee decided to make her own comeback by having surgery to replace both her knees, which had been badly damaged by RA.

And Picabo coached her through rehab. “Though Picabo and I were trying to reach benchmarks, they were guidelines, not deadlines,” says Dee. “I feel like I’ve accomplished my own personal ‘Olympics’ because I gained full range of motion in both knees.” Here are the tips from Picabo that helped her do it! (Ask your doctor before trying any new exercise.)

Ease into your routine: “I followed Picabo’s guidance and took it very slowly in the beginning. We set small goals and measured our progress each day,” says Dee. 

Do “assisted” squats: “I remember hating the wall slides,” laughs Dee. “But they strengthen all the muscles above and below the knee. The first month was very hard, but it worked!” If you want to try this move—where you slide down a wall into a sitting position, then push yourself back up—get help from a physical therapist.

Stretch these muscles: Picabo showed her mom how to do calf stretches and heel lifts, which Dee still does today. “When I don’t stretch, I get cramps at night.” Try this calf stretch: Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Wrap a towel around the ball of your foot and slowly lean back while pulling on the towel. Hold for 10-20 seconds; repeat two more times with each leg.


February 2014