Beth Heiden

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameElizabeth Lee "Beth"•Heiden (-Reid)
Used nameBeth•Heiden
Born27 September 1959 in Madison, Wisconsin (USA)
Measurements157 cm / 48 kg
AffiliationsMadison Speed Skating Club, Madison (USA)
NOC United States
Medals OG
Gold 0
Silver 0
Bronze 1
Total 1


Beth Heiden was one of the world’s most outstanding women athletes. In high school she played tennis and soccer, but also ran track, setting a national age-group record for the mile. She went on to an outstanding career as a speed skater, becoming in 1979 the first American to win the Women’s World Championships by winning all four events. She finished second in that event in 1980, was second in the 1978 and 1979 World Sprints, and was expected to join her brother, Eric Heiden, in picking up a slew of medals at Lake Placid. But an ankle injury hounded her, and the press’s expectations bothered her, and she was not the dominant force that Eric was. She came away with a bronze medal in her best event, the 3,000. Heiden did not skate competitively after the 1980 season, but she kept in shape.

Later in 1980, she became the second American to win the cycling road race at the Women’s World Championships (after Audrey McElmury in 1969), and for awhile it seemed cycling had become her primary sport, as she also won the Coors Classic stage race that year. Beth Heiden had attended the University of Wisconsin as a physics major. But in 1981 she transferred to the University of Vermont where she tried a completely new sport – cross-country skiing. Only one year after taking up the sport, in 1983, she won the inaugural NCAA Women’s championship in cross-country skiing. She later continued to compete in that sport at the masters’ level. Beth Heiden later earned a masters’ degree in civil engineering. Heiden-Reid’s daughter, Joanne Reid, competed at the 2018 and 2022 Winter Olympics in biathlon.

Personal Bests: 500 – 41.78 (1980); 1000 – 1:23.66 (1980); 1500 – 2:07.87 (1980); 3000 – 4:32.60 (1980); 5000 – 8:06.93 (1979).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1976 Winter Olympics Speed Skating (Skating) USA Beth Heiden
3,000 metres, Women (Olympic) 11
1980 Winter Olympics Speed Skating (Skating) USA Beth Heiden
500 metres, Women (Olympic) 7
1,000 metres, Women (Olympic) 5
1,500 metres, Women (Olympic) 7
3,000 metres, Women (Olympic) 3 Bronze

Olympic Records

Records may have been broken subsequently during the same competition.
Games Date Sport Event Phase Mark Pos
1980 Winter Olympics 14 February 1980 Speed Skating (Skating) 1,500 metres, Women Final Standings 2:13.10 7

Olympic family relations

Special Notes