Bob Beattie, who coached U.S. men's skiing to first medals, dies

Bob Beattie, who coached the United States men's skiing team to its first Olympic medals in the 1960s, has died. He was 85.

Beattie's son Zeno told The Aspen Times that his father died Sunday in Fruita, Colorado. Bob Beattie had been dealing with a number of health issues.

"Once he made up his mind something needed to happen, he would keep pounding away until he got it done," Zeno Beattie said. "He had a lot of friends, and they always came up to him and said, 'If it wasn't for you, I never would've accomplished whatever.'

"He never really thought about that too much. His whole world was about working really hard. And if you worked really hard at something and you did it as a team and not as an individual, you can pretty much do anything you ever wanted to do."

As U.S. coach from 1961 to 1969, Beattie -- known as "Beats" or "Coach" to friends -- helped Billy Kidd (silver) and Jimmie Heuga (bronze) to medals in the men's slalom at the 1964 Winter Olympics.

"The pressure was severe. We had promised everything -- rightfully or wrongfully -- we had promised everyone the world," Beattie told U.S. ski team historian Tom Kelly last summer. "We loved each other. We were a team."

Beattie served as a commentator for ABC Sports coverage of alpine skiing at the Winter Olympics from 1976 to 1988. He was paired with Frank Gifford to call one of the Winter Olympics' most famous ski races for ABC -- Austrian great Franz Klammer's electric downhill run to capture gold in 1976.

"They realized Bob Beattie and I had a peculiar way of calling it," the late Gifford once said in an interview with EmmyTVLegends.org. "Bob loved ski racing. ... He would get so excited at the race. My job was almost like 'Monday Night Football,' identify the players and let him go. He brought an unbelievable excitement to it."

Beattie also covered volleyball for ABC at the 1984 Summer Games and made other appearances for the network on "Wide World of Sports." He began hosting ESPN ski programs in 1985 and did play-by-play at the first Winter X Games in 1997.

He attended Middlebury College in Vermont, where he lettered in tennis, skiing, football and cross-country running. He became the ski coach following his graduation, and the team finished third at the NCAA championships in 1956.

Soon after, he went to Boulder, Colorado, to be an assistant football coach for the University of Colorado before taking over the ski program and turning it into a national power. The Buffaloes won national titles in 1959 and 1960.

In the mid-1960s, Beattie partnered with journalist Serge Lang and French coach Honore Bonnet to create the World Cup, with racers traveling the globe to compete. It's still going strong with stars such as Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin and Marcel Hirscher leading the way.

Beattie was honored for his contributions to the sport at the World Cup finals in 2017. In 1984, he was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.

Zeno Beattie said a public memorial service is likely to be held in the fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.