Eric Heiden won five gold medals in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. He set Olympic records in the 500-, 1,000-, 1,500-, 5,000-, and 10,000-meter races, plus a world record in the 10,000-meter race. It was the most gold medals ever won by an athlete in a single Winter Olympics.
After his victories, he said in a recent phone interview, "I was relieved. But all of a sudden, the most important goals of your life change."
Heiden refused to get caught up in his new fame. "Heck, gold medals, what can you do with them?" he told reporters at the time. He did few endorsements.
He retired from skating shortly thereafter and bicycled competitively until 1986. He won the US professional cycling championship in '85 and rode in the '86 Tour de France. He later finished medical school at Stanford University.
Heiden served as commentator for CBS Sports for the four Winter Olympics from '84 to '94, and is now an orthopedic surgeon who treats athletes. He is also an assistant professor of orthopedics at the University of California, Davis. "I enjoy what I'm doing," he says. Coaching would be "too much pressure."
Heiden, now married five years, says he still skates sometimes, especially "if there's a big sheet of ice where I'm traveling." He prefers outdoor rinks because they remind him of his grandparents' Wisconsin pond. He and his sister, Beth (who won an Olympic bronze), learned to skate there before the age of 5.
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