To all questions regarding the Mahre brothers, the answer is: Yes!
Yes, they can still ski. Yes, they can still win. And yes, it appears they will do as well on the pro circuit as they did four years ago as amateurs.Thursday, before a modest turnout of ski fans, the two brothers went for the gold and got it. To the top three qualifiers in the field of 69 went gold bars. Steve Mahre finished second overall and Phil Mahre third. The only skier to beat the two was Niklas Lindquist of Sweden.
After four years away from ski racing, and never having skied under the pro format, there was some doubts expressed over their chances. They were removed on the first run.
On his very first start out of the pro gates, Phil Mahre's time - 30.668 seconds - bettered those of 40 previous pro skiers and ended up as the third fastest on the first run. The only two skiers to beat him on the first run were Steve (29.97) and Lindquist (30.466).
At the bottom and between deep breaths, Steve said he was surprised by his time.
"I made some mistakes. I got going a little straight at one point. Truthfully, I didn't think I was that fast," he said. "It's a lot different (than World Cup racing). It's so short you just take off and go for broke.
"I knew Phil had a good time. So I just stayed down and went for it."
Both brothers admitted they were nervous about their first runs on the side-by-side, three-jump pro course. Both, too, admitted they weren't sure how they would do.
"I thought we would do well," added Phil. "We're both competitive. We both want to win. Even though we were away from ski racing for four years, I don't think we've lost anything. We'll have to see how we do in the race, now."
On the second run, the lineup was shuffled a little to put the two brothers side-by-side. Only seven-hundredths of a second separated the two at the finish.
The times were good enough, too, to lock them into second and third in the race for the gold. Lindquist won four ounces valued at $1,905, Steve three ounces valued at $1,429 and Steve two ounces valued at $900.
The two brothers also qualified for the men's slalom on Saturday and the giant slalom on Sunday. And they sent a signal to other racers on the circuit that the two rookies will be formidable competitors.
Lindquist is also a rookie. He comes to the pro circuit off the Swedish National Team. He, too, was a competitor in the Calgary Olympics.
Three Utah skiers were in the field of qualifiers. None were able to make the cut.
Scott Hoffman of Ogden skied a good first run but had the misfortune of being the fifth skier out of the gate. Early skiers found themselves clearing new snow off the course. As the race progressed, times on both courses quickened.
On the second run, Hoffman said he made an early mistake and found himself off in the soft snow.
"I'm feeling good about today because I came close and know that I can ski better. I skied well in training, then I end up coming here and making mistakes," he said.
Steve Bounous of Snowbird was about a second out of making the field on both his runs. Marlin Ross of Salt Lake also missed qualifying.
Besides the Mahres, only two other Americans made the round of 32 - Mark Tache and Terry Ahola.
In the women's race, last year's overall winner, Roswitha Raudaschl and Birgit Hussauf, both from Austria, finished one-two in qualifying and in the chase for the gold. Third was newcomer Catharina Glasser-Bjerner of Sweden. Raudaschl qualified with times of 30.455 and 29.836 and Hussauf with times of 30.721 and 30.004.
From the field of 26 women, 16 were selected to ski in Saturday's giant slalom. There was another qualifying round for the women's slalom on Friday morning, followed by the slalom finals.
Six U.S. women made the giant slalom finals.
Saturday's schedule will feature the women's GS finals at 10 a.m., and the men's slalom finals at 1 p.m. The only event Sunday will be the men's giant slalom fianls at 10 a.m.
The race is being held on PayDay run at Park City, which is about a 200-yard walk up the hill from the main lodge. Tickets for the event are available at the resort.