Kidd, William Winston ("Billy")

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KIDD, William Winston ("Billy")

(b. 13 April 1943 in Burlington, Vermont), first American male to win Olympic medals in alpine skiing (1964), as well as the first person to win both amateur and professional ski titles in the same year (1970).

Kidd is the oldest of three children of innkeepers Elizabeth Hart and William Garrett Kidd, a descendant of the famous British pirate. Kidd began skiing on Mount Mans-field in Stowe, Vermont, mastering the New Englandslopes to make the U.S. Eastern team at age fourteen and take second in the Junior National Championship at age seventeen. After graduating from Stowe High School in 1961, he skied on international circuits with the International Federation of Skiing (FIS), gaining a broad education from travel.

Kidd then attended the University of Colorado at Boulder from 1964 to 1969, graduating with a B.S. in economics, by which time he had switched his allegiance to the West. An early and chronic ankle injury affected Kidd's skiing style throughout his career; a thoughtful skier, he "had to figure out how to ski race without falling." He participated in both the FIS slalom and giant slalom World Cup races in 1962. Then, after recovering from a major injury, Kidd became the first American male to win Olympic medals in alpine skiing by taking the silver in the slalom (in 2:11:27) and the bronze in the combined (calculated on a point system) at the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Validating the claims of the Olympic coach Bob Beattie that the Americans would succeed in heretofore European-won events, Kidd found Austria's steep icy slopes similar to those of the U.S. Northeast where he had grown up. That same banner year, he took third place in the FIS World Championship Hahnenkamm race, won the U.S. giant slalom in a blinding snowstorm, was named the athlete of the year by U.S. skiers, and took the Roche Cup (which he won again the following year).

In 1966, the year Kidd switched from wood to fiberglass skis, he was awarded a silver bowl at the Northeast Ski Council's annual sports conference for his contributions to northeastern skiing. Also, despite shattering his right leg and American hopes in Portillo, Chile (1966), and reinjuring his ankle (1967), Kidd snared many victories around the world. Several of these wins were against the Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy and his own teammate and rival Jimmie Heuga, who had come in third behind him in their first Olympics in 1964. After winning the World Cup slalom in both 1968 and 1969 and placing fifth in the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble, France, Kidd had another record-breaking year in 1970. He became the first American to take a World Cup championship (alpine combined at Val Gardenia, Italy) and, turning pro, the International Ski Racing Association (ISRA) alpine combined and giant slalom. This was a triple achievement—the World Cup, the ISRA, and the first person to win both in the same year. Kidd also injured his back and ankle in 1970, influencing his decision to retire from racing in 1972.

During President Richard Nixon's administration, Kidd served as a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. Another outgrowth of Kidd's racing years was his long-lasting friendship with his younger teammate Heuga. They were, according to Heuga, "different beasts"—a quieter easterner and a more outgoing westerner. When Heuga developed multiple sclerosis and then fought the disease with exercise, he created the Jimmie Heuga Center for the Reanimation of the Physically Challenged in Edwards, Colorado. Kidd, a board member, supported his friend and helped to establish the Jimmie Heuga Ski Express, an annual fund-raising event for the center.

Kidd coauthored two books, Ski in Six Days (1975), a well-illustrated instructional guide, and Billy Kidd's Ski Racing Book (1984). Maintaining that ski racing "teaches you to organize and make the best use of your time … [as well as helping] improved concentration," Kidd covered all aspects of racing. Elected to both the National and Colorado Ski Halls of Fame, Kidd also won the 1987 AT&T award for commitment to excellence and dedication to skiing. Ski Magazine named him one of the top ten skiers of the century in 1999. After retiring from racing, he worked as a television commentator (including at the 1994 Olympics), ski team coach, and contributing editor of Skiing. Kidd deliberately only endorsed two major projects, the Special Olympics and Colorado's Steamboat Ski and Resort.

Started in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics gives individuals with mental retardation the chance to train and compete to develop confidence and self-esteem. Kidd was instrumental in holding the first International Winter Special Olympics in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in 1977. A one-time board member of the nonprofit Special Olympics, Inc., he continues to provide financial and coaching support. For his volunteerism, Kidd received the Texaco Star Award with $2,500 (for a charity of his choice) as the Intermountain Regional Finalist in 2000, the same year the Denver Post named him the skier of the century. As the director of skiing at the Steamboat Ski and Resort since 1970, he continues to run the Billy Kidd Performance Center. This coaching program focuses on technical development, but Kidd does more than teach—he encourages and publicizes the sport.

At five feet, eight inches tall and approximately 155 pounds, the record-breaking Kidd has been associated with strategic skiing, many injuries, and a devotion to skiing and causes that support it. He has three children from his marriage with Kristin Day Kremer Fripp, whom he married in 1976 and divorced in 1988. Inspired by the skiers Buddy Werner and Heuga, the easterner from Stowe who became linked to Steamboat in the West now serves as an inspiration to others. In his signature Stetson, the 1964 Olympic champion and world-class ski racer symbolizes American achievement in skiing.

Kidd's two instructional books are Ski in Six Days (1975), with Douglas Kent Hall, and Billy Kidd's Ski Racing Book (1984), with the coauthor Bill Grout. In addition to technique, the latter contains material from Kidd's life and comments from other ski experts. The article by Chris Dufresne, "Their Medals Still Glisten," Los Angeles Times (26 Dec. 1993), discusses his friendship with Heuga. Ski Magazine and the New York Times have regularly recorded Kidd's activities and records.

Rachel Shor