Phil Mahre had reached the pinnacle of his incredible skiing career. The greatest American skier of his generation and all before him, Mahre had navigated the slalom course at the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Winter Games to become just the second American man to ever win a gold medal in alpine skiing. (Three days after Bill Johnson became the first.)
But as Mahre left the Olympic Village that night for his medal ceremony – with twin brother Steve getting the silver medal – ABC television commentator Donna de Varona approached:
Did Phil know that he was the father of a new baby boy?
“I thanked her for the note,” Mahre later recounted, adding that de Varona handed him a piece of paper with a phone number to reach his wife at the hospital. “And I walked off in tears.”
They were tears of joy – and they showed that while skiing has been Mahre’s life since he was a child, he is much more than a skier.
Mahre’s 27 World Cup victories remain second-most among American men, even though he retired shortly after finally winning a gold medal in his third Olympic Winter Games.
One of nine children, Mahre grew up in Central Washington, where his father was the mountain manager for the White Pass Ski Resort and the family lived near the base of the ski area. Mahre first made the U.S. Ski Team at age 15 and was 18 years old when he made his Olympic debut, finishing fifth in the giant slalom at the Innsbruck 1976 Olympic Winter Games.
At the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic Winter Games, Mahre took silver in the slalom and finished first in the combined standings, though that was not a recognized Olympic event. Mahre continued skiing in the winters; in the summer, with his brother’s help, started building a house, even though he had no construction experience.
At the Sarajevo 1984 Olympic Winter Games, the twins’ bond remained strong as ever. Steve had the lead after the first run and after Phil made his second run down the mountain, he got on a radio back to Steve at the top, telling him what to expect in his run. Steve, however, faltered, and took silver while Phil got the gold. Two days later, Phil was back in the United States meeting his son, Alexander.