The expectations were lofty for ski racers Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney, both the 1983 World Cup champions. McKinney was the first American woman to win the coveted title (and would be the only one until Lindsey Vonn in 2008). And the U.S. wasn’t lauded for their winter sporting prowess at the time. TIME’s cover story put it metaphorically:
“Alpine skiing is baseball to the Swiss, the Scandinavians and the Liechtensteiners. In the U.S., it is barely lacrosse. Skiing is not a necessity in [McKinney’s hometown of] Lexington, Ky.”
But the U.S. was coming off its high of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice,” which saw the powerhouse Soviet Union hockey team fall to the Americans. Four years later, as American athletes prepared for its next Winter Olympics showing, TIME noted in its cover story: “Well, innocence may be catching up with America, because the U.S. is certainly gaining on the cold world.”
Mahre clinched gold in the slalom, while McKinney took fourth in the giant slalom, behind two of her American teammates.