EXPIRED: 02/08/10 – Jimmie Heuga, 66, was an Olympian, one of the first Alpine ski racers of the United States men’s team to win an Olympic medal in the sport. After multiple sclerosis prematurely ended his athletic career, he became an advocate of exercise and activity to combat the disease.
Heuga, who’s dad was a ski lift operator in Squaw Valley, California, began to compete in the sport at an early age. He was named to the United States Ski Team in 1958, becoming the youngest man ever to make the squad at just 15 years old.
He attended the University of Colorado, where he was coached by Bob Beattie for the first time. With Beattie also leading the U.S. Ski Team, Heuga, along with fellow Billy Kidd, Buddy Werner and Bill Marolt, formed the ski team’s nucleus for the 1964 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria. Both Kidd and Heuga became the first American men to win Olympic medals in Alpine skiing, respectively capturing silver and bronze in the slalom.
In ’66 he finished sixth in the slalom and fourth in the combined at the World Championships at Portillo, Chile.
Although the first symptoms of MS were noticed in 1967, he continued to race and joined the pro racing tour following the 1968 Winter Olympics where he was 7th in the slalom and 10th in the giant slalom. But he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1970, which derailed his ski racing career at age 27.
Heuga then went on to found the Can Do Multiple Sclerosis, formerly The Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis.
He died just days before the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.