The 500 metres was the opening event of the 1980 speed skating competition. The champion was expected to come from the first pair, with Eric Heiden facing the world record holder and defending champion Yevgeny Kulikov (URS). In fact, Kulikov had set four of the last five world records, but all were set in 1975, and all at the Kazakh speed factory of Medeo. Heiden had won the 1977-80 World Sprint championships, but was considered vulnerable because of the short nature of the event, and his best time of 37.80, set at Inzell in 1979, was far from Kulikov’s 37.00 world record. In 1979 Heiden won all four races at the World Sprints, but in 1977-78, he had lost three of the four 500s at the World Sprints. And at the recent 1980 World Sprints, he had lost one 500 to US teammate Tom Plant, but Plant skated only the 1,500 in Lake Placid. Further, Heiden started on the outer, meaning he had to finish on the more difficult inner lane, but it mattered little. Kulikov started slightly faster – 10.08 to 10.13, but Heiden crushed him, 38.03 to 38.37. The time was far off Kulikov’s world record but the ice was not considered fast. Kulikov had a slight stumble on the final curve and later claimed it cost him the gold. In the second pair, Norway’s Frode Rønning posted 38.66, showing how quick Heiden’s time had been. In the fifth pair, Dutch sprinter Lieuwe de Boer, who had recently won both 500s at the Dutch Sprint Championships, came across in 38.48, which would win him the bronze medal. This was somewhat of an upset, as he had never medaled internationally. Nobody could better the times Heiden and Kulikov had set in the first pair and Heiden had his first gold medal.