Eric Arthur Heiden

  • Eric Arthur Heiden

    Long Track Speedskating

    Born: June 14, 1958 (Age 54) in Madison, WI
    Affiliations: Madison Speed Skating Club, Madison
    Related Olympians: Brother of Beth Heiden
    Medals: 5 Gold


    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. But at 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, and won the Oscar Mathisen Award four times in a row from 1977 until 1980. As of 2006, he still is the only skater who has 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. After retiring from speed skating, Heiden then turned to cycling and, after coming close to making the U.S. Olympic team in a second sport, he had a brief career as a professional, winning the United States' national professional title in that sport in 1985 and competing once in the Tour de France, but did not finish the race. His sister, Beth, was also an outstanding speed skater and cyclist, who won a bronze medal in speed skating in 1980 and was women's world road race cycling champion in 1980. Eric Heiden later finished medical school and now practices as an orthopaedic surgeon, specializing in sports medicine.

    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).