Saturday, February 19, 2011

February 19, 1984: Top twins

SARAJEVO - From an early age, the Mahre twins seemed destined for skiing greatness. Twins Phil and Steve Mahre literally grew up on the slopes, as their father was the manager of a ski area and moved the family into a house on the base of the slopes. Phil and Steve showed skiing promise from an early age, with a ski manufacturer sending them free equipment when they were 12, and an agent offered them a lifetime contract when they were 13.

At age 15, Phil made the U.S. downhill team, and he competed in the 1976 games as an 18-year-old. He started competing in the World Cup circuit regularly through the rest of the 1970s and broke through with a gold and a silver medal in the 1980 Olympics. He then followed that up with World Cup championships in each of the next three winters.

Steve, meanwhile, began to come into his own right about this time, winning eight World Cup races in the early 1980s. While Steve was never as accomplished as his twin brother, both were highly regarded in skiing circles when the 1984 Winter Olympics rolled around.

At the start of the slalom event in 1984, Steve Mahre held the lead after the first run, with Sweden's Jonas Nilsson in second and Phil Mahre in third. Phil, though, skiied flawlessly in his second run, taking the overall lead. He held onto his lead when Nilsson faltered and dropped out of medal contention. That left Steve as the only man standing between his brother and another gold medal. Steve was in a position where a near-flawless run would give him the gold, but that didn't happen. He made just enough mistakes on his second run to finish second, just two-tenths of a second behind his brother.

The 1-2 finish by the Mahre twins was just the highlight of a fantastic skiing performance by the Americans in Sarajevo. American men and women combined for five medals in the six events that year.

But nobody had a better day than the Mahre family on February 19. Not only did Phil and Steve finish 1-2, but, an hour before he won the gold, Phil's wife gave birth in Arizona. Phil didn't know about it until an interview after his race.

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