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L E’s Stories – “An Unprecedented Achievement That Has Almost Been Forgotten” – Tribute To Long Track Speed Skater Eric Heiden

When the subject of the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics comes up in conversation….dang near every person involved in the conversation remembers The Miracle On Ice ….when the rag-tag group of young, college players who comprised the USA ice hockey team beat the mighty Russians in the most unexpected victory ever recorded in the annals of American Olympic lore….for that victory was truly the talk of the nation for years to come….but in our opinion here at ImaSportsphile….that memorable victory paled by comparison to the accomplishment achieved by a young man from Madison, Wisconsin….as Eric Heiden skated his way to gold medals in every solo event that was skated in the Lake Placid Olympics…..while establishing an Olympic feat that can never be broken….only tied….which to this day has still never happened again.  Simply put, he beat the world’s best on the biggest stage of all, the Olympic Games…..and set Olympic records in four of the five men’s speed skating disciplines (500m / 1000m / 1500m / 5000m and 10,000m)….while he set a World Record in the 10,000m…..of which these accomplishments are by any standards….SIMPLY INCREDIBLE.                                      

 

Speed Skating – 1980 – Special Documentary – ESPN’s 50 Greatest Athletes Of The 21st Century – Eric Heiden # 46

 

Eric Heiden (born June 14, 1958) is an American physician, former long track speed skater, road cyclist and track cyclist…..who won an unprecedented five individual gold medals….while setting four Olympic records and one world record at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games at Lake Placid.  Heiden was the most successful athlete at those Olympic Games….as he single-handedly won more gold medals than every nation except for the Soviet Union (10) and East Germany (9)….as he is the most successful Winter Olympian from a single edition of any Winter Olympics.  In addition to all of thet, he delivered the Athlete’s Oath at those same 1980 Lake Placid Games…..when his coach was Dianne Holum.                                                                                                                         

Speed Skating – 1980 – Lake Placid Olympic Games – Special Highlights  – USA Eric Heiden Wins All 5 Gold Medals In Men’s Speed Skating

 

Speed Skating – 2013 – Special Interview – Olympian Eric Heiden Overslept For His Race After the Miracle on Ice

 

Heiden is an icon in the speed skating community…..whose victories are significant in the history of the sport….as few speed skaters (and athletes in general) have won competitions in both sprint and long-distance events. Heiden is the only athlete in the history of speed skating to have won all five events in a single Olympic tournament….as well as the only one to have won a gold medal in all events.  He is considered by some to be the best overall speed skater (short and long distances) in the sport’s history.  Heiden ranked # 46 in ESPN’s SportsCentury 50 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century in 1999….and the only speed skater to make the list.                                                          

 

Speed Skating – 1976 To 1980 – Special – Eric Heiden Reflects On Skating To Olympic Greatness

 

Heiden was born in Madison, Wisconsin on June 14, 1958…..when his sister, Beth Heiden, also became an accomplished cyclist, speed skater and cross-country skier.  In their hometown Shorewood Hills, Wisconsin (a village next to the city of Madison’s near west side), Eric and his sister Beth were the driving forces behind the creation of the Heiden Haus, a small outpost where local children can warm up after skating or playing hockey on the ice rink (complete with underground clay platform).  He graduated from Madison West High School in 1976.  After starting his undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Heiden transferred to Stanford University in California, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in 1984 and a medical degree in 1991.                                                                                                                       

 

Speed Skating – 1976 To 1980 – German Documentary – Eric Heiden: Documentaire Mart Smeets – The Incredible Story Of Eric Heiden From A German Perspective

 

Heiden won the World Junior Speed Skating Championships in 1977 and 1978.  During his short speed skating career, Heiden won three World All-Round Championships and four World Sprint Championships.  Three times he broke the world record in the 1000 metres….twice in the 3000 metres…. and once each in the 1500 metres and 10000 metres.  He also broke the points world record in both all-round and the sprinting distances.  Heiden finished his speed skating career by finishing second behind Hilbert van der Duim at the 1980 World All-round Championships in Heerenveen.  He stood at the top of the Adelskalender, a ranking system for long-track speed skating, for a record 1,495 days….and he won the Oscar Mathisen Award four times in a row from 1977 until 1980.  As of 2020, he still is the only skater who has won the award four times.  He received the 1980 James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. In 1983, he was inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.  Heiden was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990.                                                                     

 

Speed Skating – 1979 – World Speed Skating Championships From Inzell, Germany – Men’s 1000m Finals – With USA Eric Heiden Winning Gold

 

Over the course of Heiden’s career he skated 15 world records:

Discipline

Time

Date

Location

1500 m junior

2.02,75

January 18, 1976

Madonna di Campiglio

5000 m junior

7.30,23

February 20, 1977

Inzell

1500 m junior

1.59,46

February 20, 1977

Inzell

Allround junior

168.716

February 19–20, 1977

Inzell

3000 m junior

4.16,2

February 4, 1977

Montreal

Allround junior

166.584

February 4–5, 1977

Montreal

5000 m junior

7.23,54

February 5, 1978

Montreal

3000 m

4.07,01

March 2, 1978

Inzell

1000 m

1.14,99

March 12, 1978

Savalen

Big combination

162.973

February 11, 1979

Oslo

1000 m

1.14,99

February 17, 1979

Inzell

3000 m

4.06,91

March 18, 1979

Savalen

1000 m

1.13,60

January 13, 1980

Davos

Sprint combination

150.250

January 13, 1980

Davos

1500 m

1.54,79

January 19, 1980

Davos

10000 m

14.28,13

February 23, 1980

Lake Placid

                                                                                                                                       

Olympics – 1980 – Lake Placid Olympics – Speed Skating – Men’s 1500m Finals – Featuring Eric Heiden

 

Cycling – 1986 – Tour De France Special – Profile Of The USA Team 7 – 11 – With Interview Of Eric Heiden

After his speed-skating career Heiden became a professional racing cyclist…. as he was one of the first cross-over athletes….while becoming a founding member of the 7-Eleven Cycling Team….when together with his former speed skating coach (and ex-bike racer), Jim Ochowicz, he conceived of the idea of a European-style sponsored team for North American riders.  Heiden won a few American professional races…..and he finished the 1985 Giro d’Italia….and took part in the 1986 Tour de France…..although he did not complete the race after crashing on a downhill stretch….and suffering a concussion five days from the finish.  Heiden also recorded one of the fastest times at 14:10 in 1986 on one of the local benchmark climbs in Woodside, California: Old La Honda Road.  In 1985, Heiden won the first U.S. Professional Cycling Championship, becoming the American road race champion.  In 1999, Heiden was inducted into the United States Bicycling Hall of Fame.

 

Cycling – 1987 – Special – Eric Heiden Setting Old La Honda Record At 14:10

Heiden completed medical school at Stanford University in 1991…..and orthopedic residency training at University of California, Davis, in 1996….. then spent a year at a sports medicine clinic in Birmingham, Alabama.  Heiden met fellow medical student Karen Drews while the two were studying at Stanford, and married her in 1995. Karen is a hand surgeon. They have a daughter, Zoe, born in 2001.  He returned to California to practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Sacramento….. when during that time, he also served as team physician for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA.  In 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, he was team physician for the US Olympic speed skating team.  He opened a sports medicine-based practice at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Murray, Utah….and expanded Heiden Orthopaedics with an additional office in Park City, Utah….as he has followed in the footsteps of his father, Jack Heiden, a longtime orthopedic surgeon in Madison, Wisconsin.  In 2008, Heiden and Dr. Massimo Testa published Faster, Better, Stronger, a book about exercise science and exercise programs.  In 2009, Heiden was one of the team of doctors assisting US speed skater J.R. Celski…..as the latter recovered from a very bad speed skating crash during the U.S. Olympic trials …..when despite cutting himself to the bone and requiring 60 stitches, Celski was able to recover in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver….. where he won the bronze medal in both men’s 1500 m and 5000 m relay.

 

Speed Skating & Cycling – 2010 – Special – HOF Speed Skater & HOF Cyclist Eric Heiden Talks About Training

 

Heiden was offered many sponsorship opportunities after his record-setting performance in the 1980 Winter Olympics…..but turned down most of them, saying he had enough money, and preferred the anonymity.  A number of American former gold medal winners, including Heiden, were asked to participate in the ceremonies for the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah….but Heiden declined after he was passed over for the honor of lighting the Olympic torch…..which the 1980 USA gold medal hockey team was given the honor instead.  Said Heiden “I was probably just too stubborn. I figured if they don’t appreciate what I did as a skater, if they don’t appreciate now what I am doing as a human being, I’d just as soon hang out with my buddies and watch it. I did not mean to slight the Olympic hockey team in any way.”

 

Speed Skating – 2010 – Special Interview – RIPtv Host Kris Laudien Meets With Five-Time Olympic Gold Medalist Eric Heiden At The Richmond Oval

 

At the end of the day, while considering the USOC’s decision to choose to  pass on giving the honor of lighting the Olympic torch at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics to Eric Heiden in favor of choosing the USA hockey team….who won the men’s hockey gold medal at the same Olympics as Heiden won 5 golds is indicative of how little appreciation has ever been given to Heiden for his incredible unprecedented Olympic accomplishment.  Not to slight the wonderful response of an entire nation in America….cuz the Miracle On Ice provided a euphoric response like no other….since the young Americans took down the mighty Russians….while considering the subject of the USA vs. USSR has been on the front burner of the American news media since the Russians beat the USA into space with Sputnik 1 being put into orbit in October of 1957…..through the USA landing a man on the moon in July of 1969….throughout numerous Olympic Games where the USSR and the USA battled for the most medals won….then with the USA boycotting the 1980 Moscow Games….which was followed by the Russians boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Games….and even continuing on through the 2016 US Presidential Election…..when the Russians were purported to have interfered with the outcome of the election….for the fact remains that the USA / Russian competition has been in the public eye for the better part of 65 years ….as the biggest news in America somehow or another had to do with beating the Russians….and sadly enough, Eric Heiden’s phenomenal unprecedented accomplishment at the 1980 Winter Olympics has been “left in the dust” as focus on The Russians has continued to capture the combined essence of the memories of most Americans.  Eric Heiden did something that should be “revered and praised” each and every time that the Olympics rolls around….for no athlete, be it Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz, Nadia Comaneci, Carl Lewis, Michael Phelps, Paavo Nurmi, Sawao Kato, Usain Bolt, Bob Mathias, Greg Louganis, Brigit Fischer, Al Oerter, Gert Fredriksson, Michael Johnson et al, has ever eclipsed the incredible accomplishment of winning every single discipline which was competed in their respective sport….but Eric Heiden did….and that sets him apart from all the rest in the history of the Olympic Games.  Simply put, Eric Heiden’s feat is UNPRECEDENTED iN OLYMPIC HISTORY…..and he deserves to be remembered for this feat of excellence.   

 

Speed Skating – 2020 – ESP Olympic Memories Special – Dr. Eric St.Pierre Talks About Eric Heiden: 5x Olympic Champ And Surgeon

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