When skiers Tamara McKinney and Phil Mahre flanked figure
skaters Scott Hamilton and Rosalynn Sumners on the cover of SI's
1984 Winter Olympic Preview issue, they seemed the bookends of a
perfectly balanced set. All four were Americans, all four were
reigning world champions and all four were contenders to win
gold medals at the Sarajevo Games. There was just one problem:
Only three were the same height. At 5'9", Mahre stood six inches
taller than his covermates. "I'm actually standing on New York
City telephone books," says McKinney. "They wanted the skiers
taller than the skaters to give the picture symmetry."
That photo shoot was surely the only time in their careers that
Mahre or McKinney needed any trickery to rise above the crowd.
Each earned an overall World Cup crown in 1983, and between them
they won 45 races on the international circuit. For Mahre, the
most decorated ski racer in U.S. history, the '83 title was his
third in a row, while it was McKinney's only one. Eighteen years
later they remain the sole American man and woman to win the
Mahre is best known, though, for his Olympic slalom triumphs.
After getting a silver medal in the event at the 1980 Games in
Lake Placid, he carved his legacy into the snow on Mount
Bjelasnica four years later, winning the gold medal by schussing
across the finish line .21 of a second ahead of his twin
brother, Steve, who got the silver. After the race, which was
one of his last before he retired, Phil learned that his wife,
Holly, had just given birth to their son, Alexander, in
Scottsdale, Ariz. "I couldn't tell you the date of any win I've
ever had with the exception of that one," says the 44-year-old
Mahre. "My son's birthday reminds me of the gold medal, not the
other way around."
For all McKinney's success in the World Cup series, she was
never able to muster an Olympic victory. In three Games, from
1980 to '88, she won no medals, falling in four of her six races
and getting disqualified from a fifth--the slalom in '84--for
missing a gate. "I'd be so wound up and excited that I'd turn
into a spider on a hot plate," she says. "I did my best. That's
how I look at it. In America, I get so tired of people consoling
me. I enjoy going to Europe because they're more excited about
all those World Cup races I won."
Since she retired from competition not long after winning the
combined world championship in Vail in 1989, McKinney, 39, has
been living in Squaw Valley, Calif., where she'd skied with her
family as a child. The youngest of eight children, she learned
the sport from her mother, Frances, a ski instructor who began
taking Tamara to the slopes before she could walk. "She'd bring
along this suitcase with pillows and blankets and leave me in the
lift shack," McKinney says. "She'd tell the lift operators and my
brothers and sisters to keep an eye on me while she was
Tamara's father, Rigan, was a champion steeplechase jockey, and
so after spending winters on the slopes, Tamara idled her
childhood summers away on the bluegrass of Stony Point farm in
Lexington, Ky. The farm, which houses thoroughbreds and
broodmares, is now run by her older sister Laura. When she can,
Tamara returns there with her four-year-old daughter, Francesca,
whom she is raising as a single mother. "I came to be in Squaw
Valley through my skiing, and I stay here for that," says
McKinney, who lost her father after a stroke and her mother to
cancer in the late 1980s, while both her brothers died around the
same time. (One, McLane, committed suicide; the other, speed
skier Steve, died in an auto accident.) "But I miss my family."
For his part, Mahre has stayed put in his home state of
Washington. He removed himself almost completely from
competitive skiing for several years and stayed in Yakima to
focus on raising his family, which, in addition to Alex,
includes Lindsey, 19, and Zach, 13. Over the past decade Phil
and Steve have pursued careers as race car drivers, first buying
two Trans-Am cars and most recently becoming involved in go-kart
competition. They are currently searching for sponsorship to
keep driving. "If you think skiing's expensive," says Phil, "try
In the past four years both McKinney and Mahre have turned to
coaching, she with the Squaw Valley junior racing team and he as
a mentor for young racers in the U.S. ski program. "I still have
a passion and love for the sport, so I stay in it," he says.
"Most kids who are 13 or 14 are clueless as to who I am, which
is kind of nice. I have a lot of fun with them."
Mahre and McKinney also make appearances at corporate ski
outings, and Mahre does promotional work for several ski
companies. They see each other at a few events each year, as
they did in passing last month in Park City, Utah. "Phil and
Steve were like my brothers," says McKinney. "I love that
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN (COVER) World Cup champs and pre-Olympics stars in 1984, McKinney and Mahre have stayed close to the slopes.
COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN FITZGERALD Still racing Along with brother Steve, Phil has extended his need for speed from the slopes to the track.
COLOR PHOTO: GERRY GROPP Ski lift With Tamara as her mom, Francesca is sure to schuss.
"Phil and Steve were like my brothers," says McKinney of the
Mahres, whom she sees at ski events every year. "I love that