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Eric Heiden
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Eric Heiden

Eric Arthur Heiden (born June 15, 1958) is an American speed skater who won an unprecedented five gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, United States.

The magnitude of Heiden's achievement has been lost on many Americans, though Heiden is an icon in the speedskating community and, in particular, in Europe where the sport is more highly regarded. Few speed skaters have won competitions in both sprint and long-distance events. (For that matter, few athletes have done so in other sports, such as swimming and track.)

Beth Heiden, Eric's sister, won a bronze medal at the 1980 games as well, giving the Heiden family exactly half of the medals won by the United States at those games.

During his short speed skating career, Heiden also won 3 World Championships and 4 World Sprint Championships. Later, both Eric Heiden and his sister became professional cyclists, winning a few American professional races and Eric taking part in the Tour de France once.

Heiden became an orthopedist, and has worked for the U.S. national team, in attendance during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games when Casey FitzRandolph was the first American man since Heiden to win a gold in the men's 500 meter. Heiden was asked to carry the torch during the opening ceremony, but declined because the 1980 U.S. men's hockey team was going to light the flame. He publicly wondered whether he would have had to compete in some of the women's speedskating events in 1980 to get the honour.