Yakima’s Mahre brothers reflect on their astounding 1-2 Olympic finish 38 years later

YAKIMA, Wash. – Thirty-eight years removed from Olympic glory, you can still find Phil and Steve Mahre on the slopes. They started skiing at a young age, after their dad became the manager at White Pass Ski Area and they moved into a house at the bottom of the ski hill.

“We moved to the area when we were nine years old,” recalled Steve Mahre. “The company built a house right there at the base of the area and the rest is history.”

The brothers first made the Olympic team as teenagers. Phil won a silver medal in the slalom at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid and he liked his and his brother’s chances in the slalom heading into the 1984 games in Sarajevo.

“I think we were both skiing well, we just hadn’t put two runs together in that year,” said Phil. “So we had good feelings about the slalom there.”

Steve was in first place heading into the final run, so Phil resigned himself to the silver medal.

“At that point, I was seven-tenths (of a second) out,” recalled Phil. “I was like there’s no chance of winning a gold at this point. Steve’s skiing way too well.”

But Phil turned in an incredible run and immediately radioed his brother at the top of the course.


“I told him what to do to screw up or mess up in order for me to win the gold medal,” joked Phil, the older brother by mere minutes. “And you know, he, knowing that he was my younger brother, said I had to respect my elders and he did exactly what I told him to do.”

That’s not exactly what Steve did. But instead of backing off and protecting his lead, Steve attacked the course at 100% and a couple of mistakes along the way cost him the gold. But even now, he doesn’t regret his decision.

“I’d go back and ski the same way, otherwise I’d probably have made four more mistakes besides those that I ended up with.”

Still, twin brothers from Yakima had won gold and silver in the Olympic slalom for the United States.

“Unfortunately, only one person gets to walk away with that gold medal and I was fortunate enough to win that day,” said Phil. “And unfortunately, it was at the expense of my brother.”

“We happened to see dad walking down and we stopped and he told Phil, he goes, ‘You know half that medal is your brother’s.’ I’m still waiting for him to get the hacksaw and cut it in half,” laughed Steve.

And sharing the medal stand while The Star-Spangled Banner played is a moment the brothers will never forget.

“You realize that that moment would have never been possible without the support of this huge country and it becomes America’s moment, not yours,” said Phil, choking up over the memory. “But it was great to share with Steve and with the country. And it’s like yesterday.”

To make an amazing day even better, Phil later learned his wife had given birth to their son, Alex, earlier in the day.

“The crazy thing is it’s the only race that I know the date of and it has nothing to do with the gold medal,” said Phil.

After their one-two finish in Sarajevo, Phil and Steve opened the Mahre Training Center, which they still help run in Deer Valley, Utah.

“It gave us the opportunity to live a life where I’ve never worked a day in my life, other than go out on the ski hill,” explained Steve. “If that’s work, so be it. But it really isn’t work.”

Now in their 60s, these legends of American skiing remain modest about their accomplishments on that mountain in Sarajevo 38 years ago.

“You know, I didn’t solve cancer. I didn’t do anything for mankind,” said Phil. “I went around a red and a blue plastic pole and became famous for it.”

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