The Mahre brothers: local twin skiers who won gold and silver in - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

The Mahre brothers: local twin skiers who won gold and silver in slalom

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YAKIMA, WA - The winter games may be thousands of miles away in PyeongChang, but many people in eastern Washington may not remember or even realize that there are two Winter Olympic medalists that were born and still live in Yakima.

Most young ski fans know the name Bode Miller, but everyone should know who the Mahre brothers are. Phil and Steve Mahre are still considered two of the best skiers in U.S. history.

Phil and Steve, twin brothers who are two out of nine kids, who were born in Yakima before the family moved to Ellensburg. Their dad worked in the apple orchards but during the winter volunteered on the ski patrol at White Pass.

"When we were five he was offered the mountain manager's job," said Phil, a two-time Winter Olympic Medalist. "So he took that job, we moved back to Yakima. Then when we were nine we moved right to White Pass. We grew up basically at the base of the ski area."

By the time they moved to White Pass, the Mahre Brothers were skiing competitively. They started beating 18-year-olds when they were 13.

"We were successful early on, made it more fun," Phil said, "because when you win it's more fun than when you lose."

At 18, Steve and Phil earned a spot on the 1976 U.S. Olympic Ski Team. In Innsbruck, Austria, Steve finished 13th in a Giant Slalom...Phil came in 5th.

"It kind of set my sights four years out," Phil explained. "I only had two months of international experience at that time. Lake Placid was kind of on my radar. You know, home turf. Four years more. Development, anything was possible."

What was possible was Phil Mahre becoming the first American in 16 years to medal in slalom, but no one remembers it.

"Everybody remembers The Miracle On Ice," he said. "I was a silver medalist, just happened to be on the same day that we played the Russians."

After Lake Placid, both brothers considered walking away. They took the summer off and didn't ski at all, but they decided to ski through '84, and it would turn out to be the best four years of their careers.

"I just realized there was still more to be done. Still more that I could have probably accomplished in the sport and why not give it another whirl in four years to see what could happen in '84."

But there was something about this run in Sarajevo: he was in third place, and the man he'd have to beat for a gold medal?

His brother, Steve.

"My Olympic races were some of the calmest races in my career," Phil said. "Most relaxed, it was almost like a training day. I didn't put any emphasis on them, it was just another race. I said, 'well I'm a silver medalist.' There's no way I'm going to overcome that deficit. Steve was skiing way too good that day."

Phil says Steve thought to himself, "to win Olympic Gold you have to win." So Steve set out to win the run, making three mistakes that would clear the way for Phil to claim the gold medal.

"It was the one race in my career that was tough to win at his expense," said Phil. "If it was anybody else I could have cared less, but to win at his expense was tough. I had done the same thing four years earlier in Lake Placid, led the first run made mistakes to finish second. I realized in Lake Placid it wasn't necessarily the best guy that wins, it was the guy that makes the least number of mistakes."

Phil believes that's the mystique of the Olympic Games. They happen every four years and everything has to fall into place...and in '84, both brothers would end up on the podium with medals.

"When I won my gold medal I thought that was going to be my moment, and it wasn't my moment at all. It was America's moment. Everybody that ever wished you luck, anybody that donated money to the Olympic movement, family, friends, coaches, teammates, they're all standing on that podium with you. It was humbling in a lot of respects because I realized what had taken place the last 11 years of my career wasn't about me. If not for America, my Olympic dreams would have never taken place."

Phil and Steve Mahre won gold and silver medals 34 years ago this week. They are two of only four Americans to ever medal in slalom in the Winter Olympics. They've made sports history, but both brothers are still incredibly humble.

"Skiing was something that we did; it wasn't necessarily our life," Phil explained. "It didn't identify me, it wasn't who I was as a person. It was just something I did, as did Steve. So it was really easy to walk away from it and move on and do something else in life. Never looked back, and never regretted it."

The Mahre brothers have stayed very busy in the decades since Sarajevo. They both have families, still have skiing clinics for kids, and Steve's son started Mahre Construction that Phil and Steve are partners in.