It was a race made for TV. Prime-time TV, in fact, if the cameras could have been turned off one race before the end.
Steve and Phil Mahre met in a made-for-replay race Saturday in America's Opening. In almost perfect unison, the two made two runs that were so close that only the clocks could tell the winner. The only thing wrong with it was the twins met in the semifinals and not the finals.Steve won the Mahre race and went on to beat Tomaz Cerkovnik of Yugoslavia for first place, while Phil took third with a win over Edvin Halsnes of Norway.
Because this was their first race, the two were placed on the same side of the bracket in a drawing. Chance not choice, as one organizer lamented. After three rounds, and three convincing wins, the two stood side-by-side in the starting gate in the semifinals.
On the first run, there was no way of telling which skier was ahead. The turns and landings off the jumps occurred with perfect timing. Steve skated and poled two gates from the finish to beat Phil by .098 of a second.
On the second run, it would have been hard to train for more perfect synchronized skiing. This time Phil pushed and won but only by inches - .009 of a second.
Standing at the finish, Phil looked over at his twin and said with a smile, "There's no one I'd rather lose to."
In the finals, both brothers won both runs. There was never a threat to their positions.
Steve said that almost from the first race he expected he would have his most difficult race against Phil.
"He's skiing well. Even when we were training, he was skiing well. I knew he'd have a good opener.
"I didn't start out feeling very comfortable. I had trouble on my first runs getting on my skis. The last four runs I skied well. I did get tired, though. It's not like World Cup where you can make a couple of runs and rest. There at the end I was trying to conserve my energy. I just tried to stay close and then make my move near the bottom," Steve said.
"I'm going to have to get used to this. I'm not in shape yet."
In the women's race earlier in the day, Catharina Glasser-Bjerner of Sweden beat Andreja Leskovsek of Yugoslavia.
The race for the women's GS title, and the $5,000 first prize, was Glasser-Bjerner's toughest. She trailed Leskovsek coming off the second jump in the first race, but at that point, Leskovsek, winner of this event last year, made a "rookie" error.
Glasser-Bjerner, who came onto the pro tour this year after 10 seasons skiing World Cup for Sweden, tripped the finish lights .338 of a second ahead of Leskovsek, on the Yugoslavian National Team from 1981 to 1987.
On the second run, after the two switched courses, Glasser-Bjerner said her plan was to go all out, "and not let her get a big lead." She did that and gave up only .066 of a second.