On Feb. 8, one day after the 46th anniversary of his history-making bronze medal slalom run at the Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Jimmie Heuga died of pneumonia and other respiratory problems at age 66; he had suffered for decades from multiple sclerosis. Heuga appeared on the Feb. 5, 1968, cover of SI along with teammate Billy Kidd, who won the silver in that '64 slalom; they were the first two American men to earn Olympic medals in Alpine skiing. Here, TV and film producer Michael Greenburg (Stargate SG-1) chronicles his friend's greater triumph—which came after his Olympic glory.
I first met Jimmie during the summer of 1973. I had just graduated from USC and was working for Kastle skis. Jimmie had just failed the physical for World Pro Skiing; that's how he found out definitively that he had MS. The president of Kastle, Jim Woolner, hired Jimmie as a spokesman, and Jimmie and I shared a house in Rowayton, Conn., while we jet-setted around the world.
Jimmie had inklings of his disease long before the official diagnosis. In fact, he knew something was wrong in the slalom starting gate for his second run at Innsbruck. He told me that he had double vision, and as he peered down the slope it looked more like a dense forest of wickets rather than a slalom course. It didn't matter; Jimmie had the course etched in his mind from the first run. Technically, you could consider his bronze the first Alpine medal by an American male because Billy Kidd, who would get the silver, had his run after Jimmie's.
During the three years I traveled with Jimmie, MS broke down his body. But Jimmie never allowed the disease to break his spirit or character. For four decades he beat MS on every course it took him down. In 1984 he established a foundation, now called Can Do Multiple Sclerosis (mscando.com), that runs programs for those afflicted with the disease. In my view, he deserves a platinum medal.