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U.S. Ski Coach Bob Beattie talked big—and in the last tingling Olympic race his kids delivered

by Dan Jenkins

Issue date: February 17, 1964

Jimmy Heuga, the 24th starter, wove into view with an interval time that caused Austrians and French alike to gasp. Wiggling through the gates with all the finesse of the more experienced Austrians, Heuga, one of Coach Bob Beattie's promising 20-year-olds, posted the third best time. If he could do it again an hour later, no one would have to be knocked down.

64kidd.jpg (29k)Between runs, Heuga, a constantly grinning youngster of Basque descent who deserves his reputation as the finest dancer in Colorado, asked Beattie if the second run did not require some caution. "You can't go for medal if you're cautious," said Beattie. "We're going for a gold one." Billy Kidd, free of the fever that had weakened him six days before in the giant slalom, was fed the same confidence.

"Nothing," said Beattie to a friend, perhaps trying to bolster his own confidence, "comes out of pressure but greatness. That's what we've told these kids all along, and that's what we believe. What the hell. A young racer ought to try to win, or fall down the mountain anyhow."

Billy Kidd and Jimmy Heuga did not fall down the mountain. On the second run over a more open course, they skied better than any Americans before. When the disbelieving throngs stared up at the IBM scoreboard, they saw that Kidd, a whirling figure in cap and goggles, and the bare-headed Heuga had clocked the second and third fastest times overall—and the U.S. had its first men's medals ever. Moreover, Kidd with a silver was but a bare .14 of a second away from the winner, Austria's Pepi Stiegler. Heuga, with his bronze, was only .39 away.

Equally worth celebrating—and celebrate the Americans did when Bob Beattie skied down from the top of the run, shouting, waving his poles, literally aflame with pride and joy—was the fact that Kidd finished third in the unofficial Alpine combined standings. With a 16th in the downhill, a seventh in the giant slalom and second in the slalom, Kidd ranked closely behind Germany's Ludwig Leitner and Austria's Gerhard Nenning as the third best ski racer in the world. No American had ever done that, either.

photograph by James Drake

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