Jimmie Heuga grew up near Lake Tahoe, California and started skiing at the age of two. He began competing when he was five years old, and at 15, he was the youngest man ever named to the U.S. Ski Team. In 1964 Jimmie stunned the international skiing community when he took the bronze medal in slalom at the Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Billy Kidd finished second, just a heartbeat ahead of Jimmie and together they became the first American men to earn Olympic medals for Alpine skiing. In 1967, he finished third in point standings in the World Cup giant slalom and was the first American to win the prestigious Arlberg-Kandahar race in Garmisch, Germany.
Jimmie began noticing symptoms of what would later be diagnosed with MS in the spring of 1967, experiencing vision problems and numbness in his extremities. After competing in the 1968 Olympics, he joined the professional racing circuit still hindered by mysterious symptoms. In 1970, he received an official diagnosis of MS. He was 26 and at the peak of his skiing career.
His Diagnosis and Can Do Way
When Jimmie was diagnosed with MS, doctors advised him to avoid physical activity because it was thought that exercise would exacerbate his symptoms. Jimmie founded The Jimmie Heuga Center for Multiple Sclerosis, now Can Do MS, in 1984 to challenge the conventional medical advice of the time, and share his program of physical activity, goal-setting and psychological motivation that improved his physical condition and outlook on life and MS.
Jimmie spent years sharing and teaching the principles that transformed his life from one of uncertainty, to one of an active pursuit of personal health and well-being.Today the whole person philosophy and approach that Jimmie pioneered in 1984 is acknowledged within the MS community as a standard of MS care.