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Eric Heiden

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 5
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 5
TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameEric Arthur•Heiden
Used nameEric•Heiden
Born14 June 1958 in Madison, Wisconsin (USA)
Measurements185 cm / 84 kg
AffiliationsMadison Speed Skating Club, Madison (USA)
NOC United States


Eric Heiden is usually considered the greatest speed skater of all-time and his utter domination of the sport in the late 70s warrants him a place among the greatest athletes of all-time. Heiden competed at the 1976 Olympics where his best finish was seventh in the 1,500 meters. Aat the world championships after the Olympics, he gave a hint of things to come when he won the 500m title. In 1977 he won the World Junior All-round, the World Senior Sprints and became the first American to win the World Senior All-round. In 1978 he defended all three titles. Too old for the juniors in 1979, he won the sprints and the all-around for the third straight year, and did what no man had done outright since 1912 – win all four titles at the World Championships. Heiden stood at the top of the Adelskalender for a record 1,495 days (among men), and won the Oscar Mathisen Award four times in a row from 1977 until 1980. As of 2019, he still is the only skater to have won the award four times. He set eight world records at distances between 1,000 and 10,000 metres, but his best event was the 1,000. He set those world records despite rarely being able to compete at the world’s fastest rink in that era, in Alma Ata in Kazakhstan in the former Soviet Union (now Almaty).

After retiring from speed skating, Heiden then turned to cycling and, after coming close to making the U.S. Olympic team as a track cyclist, he had a brief career as a professional road racer, winning the 1985 United States’ national professional title, and competing once in the Tour de France, although he did not finish the race. He also competed at the 1981 World Track Championships in the individual pursuit, without distinction. His sister, Beth Heiden, was also an outstanding speed skater and cyclist, who won a bronze medal in speed skating in 1980, was world speed skating champion in 1979, and was women’s world road race cycling champion in 1980.

Eric Heiden later attended Stanford and finished Stanford medical school and then practiced as an orthopaedic surgeon. He did a fellowship at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama with Jimmy Andrews, and then specialized in sports medicine. He originally practiced at U Cal Davis, but he and his wife, also an orthopaedic surgeon, later settled near Salt Lake City, Utah.

Personal Bests: 500 – 37.63 (1980); 1000 – 1:13.60 (1980); 1500 – 1:54.79 (1980); 5000 – 6:59.15 (1979); 10000 – 14:28.13 (1980).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1976 Winter Olympics Speed Skating (Skating) USA Eric Heiden
1,500 metres, Men (Olympic) 7
5,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 19
1980 Winter Olympics Speed Skating (Skating) USA Eric Heiden
500 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1,500 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
5,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
10,000 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold

Olympic Records

Records may have been broken subsequently during the same competition.
Games Date Sport Event Phase Mark Pos
1980 Winter Olympics 15 February 1980 Speed Skating (Skating) 500 metres, Men Final Standings 38.03 1
1980 Winter Olympics 16 February 1980 Speed Skating (Skating) 5,000 metres, Men Final Standings 7:02.29 1
1980 Winter Olympics 19 February 1980 Speed Skating (Skating) 1,000 metres, Men Final Standings 1:15.18 1
1980 Winter Olympics 21 February 1980 Speed Skating (Skating) 1,500 metres, Men Final Standings 1:55.44 1
1980 Winter Olympics 23 February 1980 Speed Skating (Skating) 10,000 metres, Men Final Standings 14:28.13 WR 1

Other participations

Games Role NOC As
1980 Winter Olympics Flagbearer at the Closing Ceremony USA Eric Heiden

Olympic family relations

Special Notes