A 13th-place finish in the slalom never felt so good to Julie Parisien, whose Olympics are part of her bid to return from a painful retirement.
Parisien, 26, finished fourth in the slalom at Albertville in 1992 and the next year was the top-ranked slalom skier in the world, with three World Cup victories to her credit. But it all fell apart after she took on a private coach and her brother was killed by a drunk driver.
Parisien went on a little longer, but couldn’t concentrate on racing and finally retired.
She came back to skiing but on the pro tour, which in this sport translates to minor leagues when compared with the World Cup.
She quickly excelled, winning the tour title but little money. And then the Olympic bug bit. With Nagano less than a year away, she decided to try to come back.
The problem was that she had been retired from World Cup racing for three years and therefore had no points profile, the numerical system used to rank racers for starting purposes in competition. She was forced to compete on the NorAm circuit, the training ground for World Cup wannabes, to earn points.
Because she lacked a profile, she wasn’t a member of the U.S. Ski Team and so had to pay her own way to qualifying races.
The old racing instincts were still there.
“They’ve been coming back slowly all season,” said Parisien, of Sugarloaf, Maine. “I’m about 50 days, maybe even 100 days, behind everybody in training. Day by day, it’s coming but it takes time. I’m about the equivalent to someone else in November as far as training is concerned, so I’m feeling pretty confident that I’m doing so well.”
She spent $22,000 taking the circuitous route from nowhere to the Olympics, but on Thursday she made it.
“It’s been great so far,” she said. “It’s a lot different when you don’t have the pressure of being a medal contender.”