Lausanne, Switzerland


How do Speed Skaters train while the world is locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Nothing compares to skating on real ice, but one of the most common methods of dry-land training is the use of a sliding board, a device invented by five-time Olympic Champion Eric Heiden. The exercise is perfect to keep the Speed Skating muscles fit in your own back-yard or even your own bedroom.

Eric Heiden WOG 1980 GettyImages 644635232

Eric Heiden (USA) at the Olympic Winter Games 1980©Getty Images

Eric Heiden was a true revolutionary when it comes to training methods in Speed Skating. In 1977 he skyrocketed the international Speed Skating world, when he travelled to Dutch Speed Skating mecca Heerenveen as an 18-year-old American kid, to conquer the ISU World Allround Speed Skating title.

Heiden went on to win the next two ISU World Allround titles (Gothenburg 1978 and Oslo 1979) in the run up to an unprecedented medal haul at the 1980 Olympic Games on home soil in Lake Placid, New York State.

Eric Heiden USA WOG 1980 AFP 51507256

 Eric Heiden (USA) at the Olympic Winter Games 1980©AFP

In 1979 Dutch reporter Mart Smeets made a short television portrait of Speed Skating's new superstar. The then 20-year-old Heiden shows his Dutch guest his home-built gym in Madison, Wisconsin (USA), including a slide board. He explains:

"It's linoleum, [it has] real shiny surface and you can polish it with silicone or wax. You get down in skating position and then you push form side to side. It's pretty hard, but during the summer I end up doing this two or three times a week, and you can do workouts, just like on the ice."

After this portrait was televised in the Netherlands, many Speed Skaters copied Heiden's technique and the slide board has become a household training technique in the Speed Skating world ever since.

Heiden went on to win an unseen five Olympic gold medals in all distances from 500m to 10,000m in Lake Placid, a feat that has never been equaled at in Speed Skating up to this day.

Eric Heiden WOG 1980 AFP 142574184

 Eric Heiden (USA) at the Olympic Winter Games 1980©AFP

After winning silver at the ISU World Allround Speed Skating Championships behind Hilbert van der Duim (NED) in the same year, Heiden hang up his blades to switch attention to cycling. He became a founding member of the American 7-Eleven professional cycling team.

As a cyclist Heiden finished the 1985 Giro d'Italia (131st) and took part in the 1986 Tour de France, which he did not complete after a downhill crash five days from the finish.

Eric Heiden Recieved Korbel LifetimeAchievement Award for Cylcling Korbel Night of Campions 1995 GettyImages 230891

Eric Heiden recieved Korbel Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to cycling in the USA during the Kobel Night of Champions ©Getty Images

After his retirement as an athlete Heiden studied medicine getting a medical degree in 1991, to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Heiden is arguably the greatest Speed Skater of all-time, and he can also be credited for making dry-land training for Speed Skaters a lot more efficient.