Skater Eric Heiden Won 5 Gold Medals, Then Became a Doctor. See Him at 63.
He broke multiple records, but now he enjoys another challenging career.
Every time we tune into the Olympics, we're dazzled by the skills and perseverance of world-class athletes competing against the best of the best across the globe. But while everyone who makes it to the Olympics is in a class of their own, there are certain athletes who rise above the rest—and who are remembered decades down the line. In 1980, speed skater Eric Heiden became one of those legends when he made history at the Winter Olympics. Now 63, he's taken on another challenging career off of the ice. Read on to learn more about Eric Heiden's epic Olympics victory, and to find out what he's been up to since then.
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In 1980, speed skater Eric Heiden won five gold medals at the Winter Olympics.
At the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, Heiden became the first Olympian to win five gold medals in one Olympic Games, according to a report at the time from ESPN. Heiden won gold in the 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m, 5,000m, and 10,000m speed skating events. As USA Today noted, no other athlete has since won five gold medals at the Winter Olympics.
In a quote to ESPN at the time, Heiden was modest. "Gold medals, what can you do with them?" he said. "I'd rather get a nice warmup suit. That's something I can use. Gold medals just sit there. When I get old, maybe I could sell them if I need the money."
After his speed skating career, he became a cyclist.
Heiden's speed-skating career was short-lived, and he didn't compete in the Winter Olympics after his impressive 1980 performance. But rather than put sports behind him, Heiden became a cyclist, as he discussed in an interview with Peloton Magazine. A founding member of the 7-Eleven Cycling Team, he competed in the 1985 Giro d'Italia and took part in the 1986 Tour de France.
A serious injury kept Heiden from being able to compete the Tour. He told Peloton, "There is a little bit of regret, but I was successful as a skater. I thought I was pretty successful as a rider."
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Heiden began a new career as an orthopedic surgeon.
Many former Olympic athletes become coaches or commentators, but if you want to hear from Heiden now, you'll have to book an appointment. Per his website, the Olympic star graduated from medical school at Stanford University in 1991 and began a new career as an orthopedic surgeon. In Feb. 2014, Heiden gave an interview to The Wall Street Journal from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where he was working as the team physician for the U.S. speed skating team.
While he's proud of his athletic career, Heiden told the newspaper that his greatest accomplishment is his work as a doctor and orthopedic surgeon. He has also maintained the mentality that brought him to record-breaking Olympics glory four decades ago. "It's like being an athlete—you're only as good as your last case," Heiden said.
Many of his current patients don't know about his Olympics past.
In 2008, Heiden and his wife, Karen Heiden, MD, established orthopedic practices in Salt Lake City and Park City, Utah. Naturally, he specializes in sports medicine. In a 2010 interview for the Olympics website, Heiden said the majority of his current patients don't know about his past triumphs. "Most of my patients have no clue that I had a career as an athlete and I kind of like that," he said. "Because that means they come to me for what I am known for today, which is to be a doctor and hopefully one of the best doctors that they can come visit."
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