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Skiing superstar visits Heavenly

Steve Yingling

As other Heavenly Ski Resort patrons went about their business with little fanfare, a 30-ish petite, blonde couldn’t turn around without someone shoving a microphone in her face or asking for an autograph.

Of course, that’s the price Donna Weinbrecht pays for a fabulous freestyle skiing career, which has produced an Olympic gold medal and 1991 world championship title. Although Weinbrecht can go out to most restaurants without being recognized, that’s not the case when she surfaces at a ski resort – like Saturday when she combined a promotional appearance for Acuvue UV contact lenses and a clinic for area skiers at Heavenly.

“She’s my idol,” said South Lake Tahoe’s Chris Hernandez, a rookie on U.S. men’s freestyle team who took part in Weinbrecht’s clinic. “I look up to her. Seriously, she’s been part of the sport too long, so you’ve got to listen to her.”

Thirteen years to be exact, including 11 on the U.S. Ski Team. The quick study elevated from U.S. rookie of the year in 1988 to within a single point of the overall World Cup title in 1989. Since then, she has collected 46 World Cup victories and five overall championships.

But the 32-year-old Weinbrecht is growing weary from her hectic itinerary. In fact, she has no intentions of competing after this season.

“I realize the intensity it takes to compete year after year, and it’s getting harder and harder to compete and travel as much as I have to do,” Weinbrecht said. “But I’m a woman, so I can change my mind.”

A “lock” to compete in her third Winter Games in February in Nagano, Japan, Weinbrecht isn’t the type of person to predict an Olympic medal in the face of retirement.

“For me, it’s really important to come from a good place and just kind of really think about the skiing vs. the outcome of things. Whenever I’ve thought about outcomes, I’ve never had the positive outcomes,” she said.

But don’t take Weinbrecht’s laid-back attitude to mean she’s doubting her abilities as she gets older.

“I wouldn’t be going if I didn’t feel I had a shot. I wouldn’t be competing if I knew my best couldn’t win, so it would be great to go out on top after the career I’ve had,” Weinbrecht said.

If that happens, Weinbrecht will lose her anonymity in restaurants and she just might have to reconsider her retirement plans.


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