First Love Was Hockey
Eric Arthur Heiden was born June 14, 1958, in Madison, Wisconsin into an athletic and competitive family. His father, Jack, was an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in sports medicine, as well as a cyclist and former fencing champion. His mother, Nancy, was Madison, Wisconsin's senior tennis champion, as well as a swimmer and cyclist. His sister, Beth, is fifteen months Heiden's junior and followed her brother onto the ice to win a bronze at the 1980 Olympics.
Skating is a popular sport in Wisconsin, where winters are long and frozen lakes are plentiful. Heiden's grandfather took him out on skates onto a frozen pond when he was just two years old. Skating was nothing more than family fun on Lake Mendota for the Heiden family when Eric was very young.
The children soon began racing their parents and, after a time, winning. Hockey is virtually the state pastime in Wisconsin, and Heiden joined a Pee Wee team. He made up for his small stature by being aggressive and alert. He was a strong shooter and dreamed of being a professional hockey player. His parents enrolled him and his sister in the Madison Figure Skating Club, which taught them skill and control on the ice, but also frustrated the young skaters, who wanted nothing more than to go fast and race around the rink. They found their niche when they switched to the local speed-skating club.