NTLWSUXBGJDKDRJ.20070601190708With all the hype leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics, which opens Friday, it’s a good time to be celebrating the life of Jimmie Heuga. He and Billy Kidd, star skiers at the University of Colorado in the 1960s, were the first American men to win medals at the Winter Olympics. The pair took bronze and silver, respectively, at the 1964 Games in Innsbruck, Austria.

Heuga, 66, died in Boulder yesterday after a 40-year battle with multiple sclerosis, reports The Denver Post. Among his accomplishments was founding the Jimmie Heuga Center in Edwards, which helps MS patients “re-animate” through exercise.

Heuga himself skied in a sit-ski until his body would no longer allow. He trained as hard as many athletes in the final years of his life, regularly riding his hand-cycle at CU.

Kidd, now living in Steamboat Springs, says Heuga was rare in terms of being able to accomplish more in life after his considerable competitive athletic success. Bob Beattie, the man who recruited Kidd and Heuga to CU in the ’60s, went on to become the first full-time U.S. Ski Team coach and says Heuga was one of the toughest guys he’s ever known.

Photo credit: cubuffs.com.