One week prior to the Winter Olympics, the World Sprint Championships were held in West Allis, Wisconsin. The tournament was won by an unknown East German skater, Karin Enke, who won three of the four races. Enke had started out as a figure skater, placing ninth at the 1977 European Figure Skating Championship, but then turned to speed skating. In the first pair, Sweden’s Ann-Sofie Järnström broke the Olympic record with 42.47, which would eventually place her fourth. Enke was in the second pair and she crossed the line in 41.78, another Olympic record. The third pair matched Beth Heiden, who was the 1979 World Champion, winning all four distances in the process, and Soviet skater Nataliya Petrusyova, who had recently won the 1980 Worlds, winning three of the four races, including the 500. Heiden was the sister of men’s superstar Eric Heiden, who would eventually win five gold medals in Lake Placid, and the American press was building up Beth as a possibility to also win all the women’s events. But she was not the skater Eric was, and would struggle in the 500, placing only seventh. Petruseva finished in 42.42 to move into second, behind Enke. The next pair had American Leah Poulos-Mueller the 1979 World Sprint Champion, who had been second to Enke at the 1980 World Sprints, winning one of the 500s in West Allis. Poulos-Mueller started very slowly, trailing almost all the top sprinters, but finished fast to record 42.26, which brought her the silver medal behind Enke’s gold, with Petrusyova winning bronze.