From the S&S archives: Kidd, Heuga pull stunning surprises for America's 1st male Alpine medals
INNSBRUCK — Austrian "weak man" Pepi Stiegler won the 1964 Winter Olympics men's slalom ski race Saturday, but Billy Kidd and Jim Heuga pulled a stunning upset by capturing second and third place to give the United States its first male Alpine medals in history.
Stiegler, 25, who earned a spot on the host team only under protest, captured the gold medal with a time of 131.13 seconds. His two runs were timed in 69.03 and 62.10.
But the thousands of fans on the snowy Alpine slope broke into thundering cheers for Kidd and Heuga who put America on the Alpine map.
Kidd took the second place silver medal with a time of 131.27 seconds and Heuga the bronze medal with a time of 131.52.
Austrian Toni Sailer, a three-time winner in 1956 and considered perhaps the greatest Alpine skier of modern times, admitted amazement at the American performance.
"Today's result is clear evidence that the American skiers are now equally as strong as any European Alpine racers in slalom," he said.
Kidd, a 20-year-old Stowe, Vt., college student, and Heuga, a 20-year-old Tahoe City, Calif., student, took America into the big time the hard way.
Heuga's feat was all the more remarkable in that he was placed in the second group of seedings, in 24th position.. Thus, both in the first run and the second he was forced to do down a course that had been chopped up by the favorites.
He surprised everyone with a time of 70.16 on his first run, then added 61.36 on the second down a different course.
Kidd, who did 70.96 on his first run, made the fastest of any of the contenders on his second, 60.31, to vault into second place ahead of the favored Europeans.
Kidd said "I feel great, just great."
Asked "do you know what it means?" Kidd replied:
"Yes, I know, it's the first medal we've ever won."
Kidd, who is 5 foot, 8 inches and 150 pounds, said there was no difference between the two runs to him. "I thought they were both just fine."
"I hit the second one real good," he said.
Kidd said he hoped to be around for the 1968 Olympics.
Heuga flashed through the finish line with the roar of the crowd ringing in his ears and a wide smile on his face. His first words were:
"Oh boy, what a run. Did I make it?"
Buddy Werner, veteran American skier who placed eighth, broke through a police cordon, rushed to Heuga, embraced him and said
"Yes, you did."
Heuga was surrounded by his teammates.
"It's great, it's great," Heuga said. "Now we have two medals."
Heuga took Kidd by the shoulders and pointed to the scoreboard and his voice almost choked with emotion, when he said : "You see that, Bill. It's you and me."
Heuga, his eyes moist either from tears or racing without goggles, said:
"Oh man, this was the longest wait of my life. After my first run, I knew I had to make it or break it. I knew the second course was less difficult. But I was really nervous and all keyed up inside. That waiting for my number to come up was real tough, but once I was on the course I was all relaxed and I could concentrate on the job."
The American fans exploded into joy even before the final racers had come down the hill or before the judges issued their expected disqualification list. The list was not expected to affect the tremendous showing of Kidd, who had been ailing throughout the games, and Heuga, who had been dismissed as an also-ran by European experts before Saturday's showing.
Stiegler had his triumph too, of course. He finished second in the event in the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley. But Egon Zimmerman, the Austrian glamor boy winner of the downhill had replaced him on the list for Saturday's event until Austrian newspapers and skiers demanded slalom specialist Steigler be given his chance for a gold medal. Pepi took his chance and did it.
But for U.S. coach Bob Beattie the eyes of Innsbruck belonged on the stocky Kidd and grinning Heuga.
"We did it ... We did it ... It's great," shouted Beattie amid the tumultuous American celebration in the snow.
France's Michel Arpin was fourth with 132.91 and Germany's Ludwig Leitner took fifth with 132.94, a time which combined with his downhill and giant slalom showings, gave him the world alpine championship. Kidd placed third in the non-gold medal world standings.
In Saturday's event, Switzerland's Adolf Mathis finished sixth with 132.99 seconds and Austria's Gerhard Nenning was seventh with 133.20. Nenning placed second in the world standings.
Chuck Ferries, the other U.S. entrant, was disqualified on his second run.
Saturday's races on the snowy slopes smudged some of the best skiing reputations in the world and the American showing changed.
Francois Bonlieu, the giant slalom champion, crashed into the snow on the 470-meter first run, with its 200-meter drop and 78 tightly clustered gates. Karl Schranz, the robot-like Austrian veteran, fell on the 460-meter second run and finished well out of the glory group.
Arpin was the only member of his highly rated French team to pass the first course without a mistake — the others took spills.
Through the American's medals were the first ever won by a U.S. skier in an Olympic men's alpine event, Yank skiers have won nine in the women's Alpine competitions. Gretchen Fraser won a gold medal in the slalom in 1948, and Andrea Mead Lawrence won two gold medals in 1952 in the slalom and giant slalom.
Silver in '48 and '60
In 1948, Gretchen Fraser won a silver medal in the Alpine combined, then an Olympic event but no longer on the program. Silver medals for the United States also were won in 1960 by Penny Pitou in the downhill and giant slalom and by Betsy Snite in the slalom.
Jean Saubert won a bronze medal in the slalom and a silver medal in the giant slalom in the current games.
The top eight finishers in Saturday's men's slalom:
1-Pepi Stiegler, Austria, (69.03-62.10) 131.13; 2-William Kidd, U.S.. (70.96-60.31) 131.27; 3-James Heuga, U.S., (70.16-61.36) 131.52; 4-Michel Arpin, France. (71.16-61.75) 132.91; 5-Ludwig Leitner, Germany. (71.19-61.75) 132.94; 6-Adolf Mathis, Switzerland. (70.77-62.22) 132.99; 7-Gerhard Nanning, Austria, (70.29-62.91) 133.20; 8-Bud Werner, U.S.. (71.64-61.82) 133.46.