Was Picabo Street Named After the Game “Peek-a-boo”?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about the Olympics and Olympians and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the Olympic urban legends featured so far.

OLYMPIC URBAN LEGEND: Olympic skiier Picabo Street was named after the game “Peek-a-boo.”

Let’s finish up today as a sort of “legends about names of famous athletes” theme day, following Joe Thiesmann’s earlier change of heart (and pronunciation).

Picabo Street (born in 1971) is one of, if not the, most famous female skiier in United States history.


Besides her successes in the Skiing World Championships (which include a Gold Medal in 1996 in the Downhill), Street is most famous for her successes at the Winter Olympics. She first burst on to the national scene in the 1994 Winter Olympics, where the 23-year-old won the Silver Medal in the Downhill. Personable and pretty, Street was the kind of athlete with tremendous “crossover” potential, potential she capitalized on in 1998, when she won the Gold Medal on the Super G (a sort of combination of downhill and slalom skiing). The 27-year-old soon was making appearance seemingly everywhere and endorsed a number of products.

Perhaps the thing that was the most peculiar about the young skiier was her name – Picabo.

Soon, a story came about that she was named after the children’s game, “Peek-a-Boo” (where an adult or older child looks at a baby, covers their (the older player) face with their hands, then uncovers their face and says “Peek-a-boo!” to the baby, who gets a great deal of amusement out of the exchange. Yes, I just defined “Peek-a-boo!” – what can I say, I’m thorough!).

The story is not exactly true, but the real story is perhaps even odder than that.

Street’s parents, Stubby and Dee, decided to raise their family in a slightly unconventional way. In 1967, they moved to the small rural town of Triumph, Idaho. When Street was born, they decided that they were going to let her pick her OWN name, and not be so presumptuous as to tell her what her name would be. So for the first two years of her life, she was known only as “Little Girl.”

Nearby their home in Triumph was a town called Picabo, named after the Picabo Tribe. Stubby was aware of this town when, in 1973, Street’s parents were forced to give her a name so that they could get her a U.S. Passport for a trip to Mexico. According to Stubby, while playing Peek-A-Boo with “Little Girl,” he thought of the town and said, basically, “Hey, that’d be a nice name!”

So they named her Picabo, but when she was four years old, they told her that she could change her name if she’d like to whatever she wanted. She chose to stick with Picabo, and the rest, as they say, is history.

STATUS: Close but no cigar, so False.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

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