Colorado Springs, CO – The fans have weighed in. U.S. Ski Team great Picabo Street, skiing veteran Andrea Mead Lawrence and Paralympian Sarah Will all will be members of the Class of 2009 to be inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame presented by Allstate, the U. S. Olympic Committee (USOC) announced Tuesday.
The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame is the only national sports hall of fame that uses fan voting as part of its selection process. This year’s U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame class is comprised of five Olympians, one Paralympian, one team, as well as three additional individuals: a coach, veteran and a special contributor.
“Andrea, Picabo and Sarah are three of the greatest ski racers of all time,” said USSA President and CEO Bill Marolt. “Their accomplishments as athletes have inspired generations of aspiring Olympians. It is a great honor for them, as well as for our sport, to be recognized in the Olympic Hall of Fame.”
“The USOC is very excited to honor this year’s U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame legends who have inspired many generations in this country with their courage and thrilling Olympic performances,” said USOC Acting Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Streeter. “Each of these Olympians is a worthy addition to the Hall of Fame and an overall symbol of the U.S. Olympic Movement.”
Andrea Mead Lawrence skied at three Olympic Winter Games, including the 1952 Oslo Games where she won gold medals in slalom and giant slalom. Before America became the skiing force it is today, she helped build the U.S. ski program from the ground up to compete with the traditional European powers.
Mead Lawrence became the youngest athlete to be chosen for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Alpine Ski Team when, at age 14, she made the 1948 squad. In her Olympic debut, she finished eighth in the slalom at St. Moritz. Four years later, her double gold performance was lauded by Hall of Fame Olympic film producer Bud Greenspan, who called her his No. 1 Winter Olympian. She concluded her Olympic career in three races at the Cortina 1956 Olympic Winter Games, finishing fourth in the giant slalom.
Mead Lawrence, the only U.S. woman to win two skiing gold medals at one Olympic Winter Games succumbed to cancer on March 30, 2009 at age 76. She is survived by her five children and four grandchildren.
A three-time Olympian, Picabo Street first joined the U.S. Ski Team in 1989 and earned a silver medal at the 1994 Olympic Winter Games in – the downhill. The Sun Valley native left her mark in Olympic history in 1998, taking gold in the Nagano super G by a mere hundredth of a second.
“I am very stoked about it. It’s such validation that the time I spent, the sacrifices I made and the success I had really meant something and they’re lasting. The Hall of Fame makes it lasting,” Street said. “In your heart you know no one can ever take it away from you. Then you move on and you get busy with your life and you have kids and something like this is a really nice reminder that I accomplished something great and that it still affects people in a positive way. It’s really a huge, huge honor – one of those kind of honors that’s hard to put words to.”
Street medaled in three World Championships, earning combined silver in 1993, and super G bronze and downhill gold in 1996. Winning six of nine World Cup competitions in 1995, Street became the first American to win a World Cup season title in a speed event. After a leg injury and two years of rehabilitation, Street returned to compete in 2002 in Salt Lake City before retiring. With nine career victories, she was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 2005.
Sarah Will had her first run of the mountain at the age of four. From that moment on she was hooked on the sport. In 1988, the Olympic skiing hopeful was in a serious skiing accident that paralyzed her from the waist down. Rather than give up the sport she loved, she took up mono skiing and was back on the slopes just one year later. Four years after her start in the monoski, she competed in her first Paralympic Games, winning gold in downhill and super G in 1992 in Albertville, France.
“It’s one of those experiences where you feel not only proud of your accomplishments, but also proud to be among so many athletes who really dedicated their lives to their sport,” Will said of her nomination. “It’s an honor to be in there with people who have been pioneers and who have made sports what they are today. I congratulate all the other athletes who were nominated.”
Will won a total of 12 Paralympic gold medals and one silver medal throughout her four Paralympic experiences, making her the most decorated female mono skier in U.S. Ski Team history. In 2002, Will took the Paralympic alpine skiing gold medal sweep, winning all four races, along with the U.S. Paralympic Spirit Award.
The star-studded inductee list also includes Michael Johnson (athletics), Teresa Edwards (basketball), Willye White (athletics), Mary T. Meagher (swimming) the 1992 Men’s Basketball Team, longtime Men’s Gymnastics Team coach Abie Grossfeld, and special contributor Peter Ueberroth. Amazingly, members of this talented group of athletes, teams and coaches have been a part of a combined 19 Olympic and Paralympic Games and brought home 38 medals.
Nominees for the Class of 2009 were selected by a seven-person nominating committee consisting of Olympians, members of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, an NGB executive director, and a USOC representative. Fan votes submitted online also played an important role in the selection process, with more than 112,000 votes cast during the voting period.
The U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame Class of 2009 will be formally introduced and honored August 12 at a banquet-style induction ceremony at McCormick Place in Chicago. The induction ceremony will air in a nationally-televised broadcast on NBC on September 5 at 2:00 p.m. ET.