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ERIC HEIDEN (b. 1958)

Madison, Wisconsin

"The first man ever to turn ice into gold."
Dave Kindred, Washington Post, February 24, 1980

Eric Heiden

Eric Heiden is in a realm by himself, for no one before or since has won five individual gold medals at one Olympics. He is one of few speed skaters to combine powerhouse sprint starts, long distance endurance, effortless style, speed on the turns, and coolness under pressure — the results of his extraordinary ability to concentrate, endure pain, and train hard.

As a child Eric skated with the Madison Speed Skating Club team but did not begin training seriously until 1972, when Dianne Holum, an Olympic gold medalist and University of Wisconsin student, took him under her wing. Since Eric and his sister Beth started late in life, Dianne put the two teenagers on a rigorous training regime so they could catch up with their European counterparts. In 1976 Eric went to the Olympics and placed no higher than seventh. The next year he began to dominate the sport, becoming the first American to win the men's world speed skating championship — a feat he repeated in 1978 and 1979. Shortly after competing in the 1980 Olympics, Eric retired from the sport. He did try cycling, but failed to qualify for the 1980 Summer Olympics. Since then Eric has graduated from medical school and has become an orthopedic surgeon. He was the United States speed skating team doctor at the 2002 Olympics and is so again at the 2006 games.

Olympic Career

1976, Innsbruck, Austria
1500 meters: 7th
5000 meters: 19th

1980, Lake Placid, New York
500 meters: GOLD MEDAL
1000 meters: GOLD MEDAL
1500 meters: GOLD MEDAL
5000 meters: GOLD MEDAL
10,000 meters: GOLD MEDAL


Gold medals won by Eric Heiden
at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
(Courtesy of the Heiden Family)

Athlete's pass used by Eric Heiden
during the 1980 Olypmics.
(Courtesy of the Heiden Family)

Skates worn by Eric Heiden during the
1980 Olympics. Eric wore two pairs of
skates during the 1980 Olympics. The
other pair, along with his gold racing skin
and stocking cap, is now owned by the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
(Courtesy of the Heiden Family)

United States Olympic Committee Hall
of Fame plaque, 1983. Eric Heiden was
part of the charter class of Hall of Fame
inductees along with 19 other
athletes, including Cassius Clay, Wilma
Rudolph, Jim Thorpe, and Mark Spitz.
At the ceremony, held on October 6, 1983,
in Chicago, the "miracle" ice hockey team
from 1980 also was inducted. Since then
two other speed skaters, Bonnie Blair
and Dan Jansen, have been added to
the Hall of Fame roster.
(Courtesy of the Heiden Family)
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