Speed Skating at the 1980 Winter Olympics

Dates 14 – 23 February 1980
Medal Events 9

The 1980 Olympic speed skating competition took place on an outdoor track set up at James B. Sheffield Stadium, the Lake Placid High School football stadium, with the field flooded to create a speed skating oval. It was not considered a fast track, as the ice was shallow, and the stands were small, with little protection from the wind.

The speed skating events were highly anticipated because of the appearance of Eric Heiden who, over the past three seasons, had established himself among the greatest speed skaters of all time. Heiden had skated at the 1976 Winter Olympics, placing 7th in the 1,500 and 19th in the 5,000, and then had placed fifth at the 1976 World All-Around Championships. He had not lost an all-around or sprint all-around competition since that meet, winning the 1977-79 World All-Arounds, the 1977-80 World Sprints, and because of his youth, also winning the 1977-78 Junior World All-Arounds. In the last two years he had rarely been defeated in any single distance race, winning all four races at the 1979 Worlds and World Sprints. It was considered a possibility that Heiden could win five gold medals in the five Olympic events, though that was considered a difficult feat, to be certain. But in the end, he would do just that, winning all five gold medals, finishing it off with a world record in the 10,000.

On the women’s side, another Heiden was thought to have a chance to win multiple gold medals as well. Eric’s sister, Beth Heiden, was the 1979 World All-Around and World Junior Champion, even winning all four races at the 1979 World All-Around. But she was not as dominant as Eric, and was better in the long distances. It was considered possible that she could win medals in all four women’s races. In the end, Lake Placid had a decidedly different outcome for her, as she struggled and won only one medal, a bronze, that in the 3,000. It was considered a disappointing performance and the American press castigated her for the effort, but she handled it with class. In the end the four women’s events were won by four different skaters, with Lake Placid a coming out party for the GDR’s Karin Kania-Enke, a former figure skater who won the 500 metres and would establish herself in the coming years as one of the top women’s sprinters.


Event Status Date Participants NOCs
500 metres, Men Olympic 15 February 1980 37 18
1,000 metres, Men Olympic 19 February 1980 41 19
1,500 metres, Men Olympic 21 February 1980 36 16
5,000 metres, Men Olympic 16 February 1980 29 15
10,000 metres, Men Olympic 23 February 1980 25 13
500 metres, Women Olympic 15 February 1980 31 15
1,000 metres, Women Olympic 17 February 1980 37 16
1,500 metres, Women Olympic 14 February 1980 31 14
3,000 metres, Women Olympic 20 February 1980 29 14
128 (74/54) 20 (19/16)


Event Gold Silver Bronze
500 metres, Men Eric HeidenUSA Yevgeny KulikovURS Lieuwe de BoerNED
1,000 metres, Men Eric HeidenUSA Gaétan BoucherCAN Frode Rønning
Vladimir Lobanov
1,500 metres, Men Eric HeidenUSA Kay Arne StenshjemmetNOR Terje AndersenNOR
5,000 metres, Men Eric HeidenUSA Kay Arne StenshjemmetNOR Tom Erik OxholmNOR
10,000 metres, Men Eric HeidenUSA Piet KleineNED Tom Erik OxholmNOR
500 metres, Women Karin EnkeGDR Leah Poulos-MuellerUSA Nataliya PetrusyovaURS
1,000 metres, Women Nataliya PetrusyovaURS Leah Poulos-MuellerUSA Sylvia AlbrechtGDR
1,500 metres, Women Annie BorckinkNED Ria VisserNED Sabine BeckerGDR
3,000 metres, Women Bjørg Eva JensenNOR Sabine BeckerGDR Beth HeidenUSA

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States USA 5 2 1 8
Norway NOR 1 2 4 7
Netherlands NED 1 2 1 4
East Germany GDR 1 1 2 4
Soviet Union URS 1 1 2 4
Canada CAN 0 1 0 1