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The five gold medals won by Eric Heiden
at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
It must be the cheese.

Bob Costas speculating about why so many Olympic speed skaters come from Wisconsin.

Athletic skill, determination, and enthusiastic public support — these, not cheese, help explain the fact that Wisconsin has dominated the sport of long-track speed skating for the past thirty years.

In 1976 Peter Mueller and Dan Immerfall became the first Wisconsin natives to win Olympic speed skating medals. For the next three decades, Wisconsin sent athletes to every Olympic speed skating team, and through 2002 speed skaters born and raised in the state won a total of 13 medals.

Eric Heiden of Madison reached the pinnacle of Olympic success by winning five gold medals in 1980. Mueller, Immerfall, and Heiden, along with Eric's sister Beth, and later competitors Dan Jansen, Chris Witty, and Casey FitzRandolph, represent the high caliber of Wisconsin speed skating talent.

Special Thanks

This online exhibit was developed as a companion to a gallery exhibition at the Wisconsin Historical Museum from February 7 through March 25, 2006. The Wisconsin Historical Society thanks the following individuals and organizations for the donations and loans that made this exhibition possible:

Athletes & Their Families

  • Casey FitzRandolph
  • Jeff and Ruth FitzRandolph
  • Eric Heiden
  • Nancy and Jack Heiden
  • Dan Immerfall
  • Dan Jansen
  • Paul and Rita Mueller
  • Beth Heiden Reid
  • Diane and Walter Witty


  • Name Badge Productions
  • National Speedskating Museum and Hall of Fame
  • Pettit National Ice Center
  • Libba Shannonhouse
  • U.S. Speedskating
  • West Allis Historical Society
  • Wisconsin Historical Foundation
  • Wisconsin Public Television
  • Wisconsin State Fair Park
  • WMTV, NBC-15