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Eric Heiden
Eric Heiden at 2006 Winter Olympics 2006-02-11.jpg
Heiden at the 2006 Winter Olympics
Personal information
Date of birth June 14, 1958 (1958-06-14) (age 51)
Place of birth Madison, Wisconsin
Height 1.84 m (6 ft +12 in)
Weight 86 kg (190 lb; 13.5 st)
Country USA
Sport Speed skating

Eric Arthur Heiden, M.D. (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 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.


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 1,000 metres, twice in the 3,000 metres, and once each in the 1,500 metres and 10,000 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 2006, he still is the only skater who has won the award four times.

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.

World records

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

  • 1500-m junior, 2:02.75 (18 January 1976, Madonna di Campiglio; beaten by Heiden)
  • 5000-m junior, 7:30.23 (20 February 1977, Inzell; beaten by Heiden)
  • 1500-m junior, 1:59.46 (20 February 1977; beaten by Aleksandr Klimov 24 March 1983)
  • Allround junior, 168.716 (19-20 February 1977, Inzell; beaten by Heiden)
  • 3000-m junior, 4:16.2 (4 February 1977, Montreal; beaten by Tomas Gustafson 26 January 1980)
  • Allround junior, 166.584 (4-5 February 1977, Montreal; beaten by Aleksand Klimov 24 March 1983)
  • 5000-m junior, 7:23.54 (5 February 1978, Montreal; beaten by Tomas Gustafson 27 January 1980)
  • 3000-m, 4:07.00 (2 March 1978, Inzell; beaten by Heiden)
  • 1000-m, 1:14.99 (12 March 1978, Savalen; beaten by Heiden)
  • 1000-m, 1:13.60 (13 January 1980, Davos; beaten by Gaetan Boucher, 31 January 1981)
  • Allround, 162.973 (10-11 February 1980, Bislett, Oslo; beaten by Viktor Shasherin, 25-26 March 1983)
  • 3000-m, 4:06.91 (18 March 1979, Savalen; beaten by Dmitri Ogloblin 28 March 1979)
  • Sprint, 150.250 (12-13 January 1980, Davos; beaten by Gaetan Boucher 30-31 January 1980)
  • 1500-m, 1:54.79 (19 January 1980, Davos; beaten by Igor Zhelezovski 26 March 1983)
  • 10,000-m, 14:28.13 (23 February 1980, Lake Placid; beaten by Dmitri Ogloblin 29 March 1980)

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.[1] Heiden won a few American professional races and took part in the 1986 Tour de France, although he did not complete the race as he fell five days from the finish.

Heiden is believed to hold the unofficial record on one of the local benchmark climbs in Woodside, California: Old la Honda Rd.[citation needed] In 1985 Heiden won the first US Professional Cycling Championship, thus 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 and 2010,[2] he was team physician for the U.S. Olympic Speedskating 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 US speed skater J.R. Celski as he recovered from a very bad speed skating crash during the US Olympic trials. Despite cutting himself to the bone and requiring 60 stitches, the doctors were able to help Celski recover in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, where he won the bronze medal in both men's 1500m[3] and 5000m relay.[4]

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 clay platform buried underground).


  1. ^  "VeloNews - The Journal of Competitive Cycling". 2010-01-10. 
  1. ^ Woldendorp, Johan (4 February 2000). "Vrouwen snellen Heiden nu voorbij" (in Dutch). Trouw. Retrieved 25 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Rebate wars
  3. ^ Feb. 14, 2010 NBC interview with J.R. Celski the day after his bronze medal win in both the Men's 1500m.
  4. ^

Further reading

  • Wangrin, Mark (1990). "Eric Heiden: True Gold". In ESPN SportsCentury. New York: Hyperion-ESPN Books. pp. 252-3.

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Norway Sten Stensen
Oscar Mathisen Award
Succeeded by
Norway Amund Sjøbrend
Preceded by
United Kingdom Sebastian Coe
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

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


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