February 5, 1968
When Billy Kidd won the silver and Jimmie Heuga the bronze in the slalom at the Innsbruck Winter Games in 1964—the first American men to be awarded Olympic Alpine skiing medals—they became linked in the minds of sports fans, like Affirmed and Alydar. "We didn't realize how dramatically it would change our lives," says Kidd, 55.
The two remained friendly rivals on the slopes—with Kidd generally a ski-length ahead—until 1968, when Heuga retired. Two years later Kidd became the first skier to win combined tides at both the amateur and the professional world championships in a single year, then he too retired. Since then he has been director of skiing at the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation in Steamboat Springs, Colo., and has worked as a television commentator. "I'm either skiing or talking about skiing," says Kidd, who lives with his girlfriend, Hollis Brooks, and his daughter, Hayley, 15, from a marriage that also produced sons Stirling, 22, and Christian, 19.
For Heuga, also 55, life took a harsh turn in 1970. He was found to have multiple sclerosis. His doctors ordered him to refrain from any athletic activity, but six years later, depressed and frustrated—"I just couldn't stand waiting around for a magical cure," he says—he started bicycling every day. Soon he was swimming. Then skiing. In 1984 he founded the Jimmie Heuga Center for the Reanimation of the Physically Challenged, in Edwards, Colo. Today his groundbreaking approach to living with MS, which emphasizes physical activity, is widely accepted by neurologists who treat the disease. "I'm the least qualified person to run a medical center," he says, "but I do know how to live. You can't just wait for the lights to be shut off."
Over the last three decades Heuga and Kidd have forged a deep friendship. Kidd is on the board of the Heuga Center and is godfather to two of Jimmie's sons, Blaze, 7, and Winston, 4. Jimmie, who lives in Edwards with his wife, Debbie, their eldest son, Wilder, 9, Blaze and Winston, is godfather to Hayley Kidd. "Jimmie is an inspiration to everyone," Kidd says. "He doesn't think about MS as a disability but as a challenge."
While Heuga, who has been confined to a wheelchair since 1994, remains upbeat, his athletic activity is now limited to stretching. He often receives calls from former adversaries such as Jean-Claude Killy and, of course, visits from Kidd. More than anything, Heuga treasures his bonds to the men he skied against. "It was a fun sport," he says. "My adversaries became my friends."