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Eric Heiden

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Eric Heiden

Eric Heiden
Heiden in 2007
Personal information
Born (1958-06-14) June 14, 1958
Madison, Wisconsin
Height 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Weight 84 kg (185 lb; 13.2 st)
Country USA
Sport Speed skating

Eric Arthur Heiden (born June 14, 1958, in Madison, Wisconsin) is an American former long track speed skater and road cyclist who won all the men's speed skating races, and thus an unprecedented five individual gold medals, and set four Olympic records and one world record at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, United States. He was the most successful athlete at the same Games, and is indeed, the most successful Winter Olympian from a single edition of Winter Olympics. He also delivered the Athlete's Oath at those same games.

Heiden is an icon in the speed skating community and, in particular, in Europe where the sport is highly regarded. His victories are significant as few speed skaters (and athletes in general) have won competitions in both sprint and long-distance events. Heiden is the only athlete in the history of speed skating to have won all five events in a single Olympic tournament and the only one to have won a gold medal in all events. He is considered by some to be the best overall speedskater (short and long distances) in the sport's history. Heiden ranked No. 46 in ESPN's SportsCentury 50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century in 1999, the only speed skater to make the list; in 2000, a Dutch newspaper called him the greatest skater ever.[1]

His sister, Beth Heiden, is also an accomplished cyclist, speedskater and cross-country skier. In Heiden's hometown of Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin (a suburb of Madison), Eric and his sister Beth were the driving forces behind the creation of the "Heiden Haus", a small outpost where local children can warm up after skating or playing hockey on the ice rink (complete with underground clay platform).

After his sports career, Heiden became a physician, and as of 2012 is the team doctor for the BMC Racing Team.

Skating career

During his short speed skating career, Heiden won three World Allround Championships and four World Sprint Championships. Three times he broke the world record in the 1000 metres, twice in the 3000 metres, and once each in the 1500 metres and 10000 metres. He also broke the points world record in both allround and the sprinting distances.

Heiden finished his speed skating career by finishing second behind Hilbert van der Duim at the 1980 World Allround Championships in Heerenveen. He stood at the top of the Adelskalender for an impressive 1,495 days, and won the Oscar Mathisen Award four times in a row from 1977 until 1980. As of 2012, he still is the only skater who has won the award four times.[2]

He received the 1980 James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. In 1983 he was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.

He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990.

World records

Heiden in 1977
Heiden in 1980
Heiden in 1977
Eric and Beth Heiden in 1977 in Alkmaar, the Netherlands

Over the course of Heiden's career he skated 15 world records:

Discipline Time Date Location
1500 m junior 2.02,75 January 18, 1976 Madonna di Campiglio
5000 m junior 7.30,23 February 20, 1977 Inzell
1500 m junior 1.59,46 February 20, 1977 Inzell
Allround junior 168.716 February 19–20, 1977 Inzell
3000 m junior 4.16,2 February 4, 1977 Montreal
Allround junior 166.584 February 4–5, 1977 Montreal
5000 m junior 7.23,54 February 5, 1978 Montreal
3000 m 4.07,01 March 2, 1978 Inzell
1000 m 1.14,99 March 12, 1978 Savalen
Big combination 162.973 February 11, 1979 Oslo
1000 m 1.14,99 February 17, 1979 Inzell
3000 m 4.06,91 March 18, 1979 Savalen
1000 m 1.13,60 January 13, 1980 Davos
Sprint combination 150.250 January 13, 1980 Davos
1500 m 1.54,79 January 19, 1980 Davos
10000 m 14.28,13 February 23, 1980 Lake Placid


Road bicycle racing

After his speed-skating career, Heiden became a professional racing cyclist. He was one of the first cross-over athletes, becoming a founding member of the 7-Eleven Cycling Team. Together with his former speed skating coach (and ex-bike racer), Jim Ochowicz, he conceived of the idea of a European-style sponsored team for North American riders. Heiden won a few American professional races. He finished the 1985 Giro d'Italia and took part in the 1986 Tour de France, although he did not complete the race, crashing five days from the finish.

Heiden is believed to have recorded one of the fastest times at 14:10 (1986 or 1987) on one of the local benchmark climbs in Woodside, California: Old La Honda Road.[4] In 1985, Heiden won the first U.S. Professional Cycling Championship, becoming the American road race champion.

In 1999, Heiden was inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame.

Medical career

After starting his undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Heiden earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Stanford University in 1984 and earned his M.D., also from Stanford in 1991. He completed orthopedic residency training at UC Davis in 1996 and after a year at a sports medicine clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, returned to California to practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Sacramento. At that time, he also served as team physician for the NBA's Sacramento Kings and the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA. In 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014[5] he was team physician for the U.S. Olympic speed skating team. He opened a sports medicine-based practice at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Murray, Utah, and has recently expanded Heiden Orthopaedics with an additional office in Park City, Utah.

He has followed in the footsteps of his father, Jack Heiden, a longtime orthopedic surgeon in Madison, Wisconsin.

In 2008, Heiden published Faster, Better, Stronger, a book about exercise science and exercise programs.

In 2009, he was one of the team of doctors assisting U.S. speed skater J. R. Celski as the latter recovered from a very bad speed skating crash during the U.S. Olympic trials. Despite cutting himself to the bone and requiring 60 stitches, Celski was able to recover in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where he won the bronze medal in both men's 1500 m and 5000 m relay.[6]

2002 Winter Olympics

Heiden was invited to participate, along with other American former gold medal winners, in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City but refused to participate after he was not given the honor of lighting the Olympic torch. The 1980 gold-medal winning U.S. Hockey Team was given the honor instead of Heiden. Heiden said, "“I figured if they don’t appreciate what I did as a skater, if they don’t appreciate now what I am doing as a human being, I’d just as soon hang out with my buddies and watch it [on television]."[7]

See also


  1. ^ Woldendorp, Johan (February 4, 2000). "Vrouwen snellen Heiden nu voorbij" (in Dutch).  
  2. ^ Eric Heiden.
  3. ^ "Eric Heiden". Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  4. ^ Training World-class Racers And Weekend Warriors. BikeRadar (2008-09-20). Retrieved on 2012-11-18.
  5. ^ Rebate wars. Retrieved on 2012-11-18.
  6. ^ J. R. Celski.
  7. ^ Longman, Jere (2009-09-30). "Former Speedskating Champion Heiden Is Staying Close to the Ice".  

Further reading

  • Wangrin, Mark (1999). "Eric Heiden: True Gold". In ESPN SportsCentury. New York: Hyperion-ESPN Books. pp. 252–3.

External links

  • Eric Heiden at
  • PB's and a link to all his International Championships
  • Eric Heiden's U.S. Olympic Team bio ... notes, quotes, photos
  • Eric Heiden interview on 25th anniversary of Olympic heroics
  • IOC 1980 Winter Olympics
  • Current skaters comment on Heiden's legacy
  • Race-by-race analysis by Heiden
  • Scientific approach to find the best skater of all times, University of Groningen, The Netherlands (Dutch)
  • at Letters on PagesFaster, Better, StrongerBook Review of
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Sten Stensen
Oscar Mathisen Award
Succeeded by
Amund Sjøbrend
Preceded by
Sebastian Coe
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
Sebastian Coe
Preceded by
Kurt Thomas
James E. Sullivan Award
Succeeded by
Carl Lewis
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