Camp Randall 100: Eric Heiden

The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.

Eric Heiden

The 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, have reached almost mythical proportions. Movies have been made, books have been written, tales have been spun about “I was there when …”

Right in the center of all of it was a 13-member contingent from Wisconsin. The two most famous of those names were Eric Heiden and Mark Johnson, boyhood friends from Madison who took the world by storm with their performances.

Heiden won five individual gold medals while setting four Olympic records and one world record in speedskating. He remains the only athlete to win gold in all five long track events in a single Olympics.

Johnson, fresh off an outstanding career with the Badgers, was a member of the “Miracle on Ice” men’s hockey team that upset the Soviet Union in the semifinals and beat Finland to win the gold medal. Johnson was the team’s leading scorer and tallied two goals in the win over Russia.

Another former Badger, Bob Suter, was a member of the men’s hockey team. Eric Heiden’s sister, Beth, won a speedskating bronze medal in Lake Placid.

Eric Heiden's five 1980 Olympic gold medals
Eric Heiden’s five 1980 Olympic gold medals

Those four Madison natives were joined by speedskaters Mary and Sarah Docter, Dan Immerfall, Leah and Peter Mueller, Mike Woods, and Mike and Tom Plant; ski jumper Reed Zuehlke; and speedskating coaches Dianne Holum and Peter Schotting at a welcome home ceremony held at Camp Randall Stadium on March 29, 1980.

A crowd of between 25-30,000 fans greeted the Olympians and the reception was televised live throughout the state of Wisconsin. The UW Marching Band and cheerleaders as well as the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps kicked off the festivities.

An Olympic-style torch was lit and the Olympic banner waved as the athletes were individually introduced and paraded to a stand set up on the football field, according to that day’s Madison Capital Times.

Among the speakers were Wisconsin governor Lee Dreyfus, UW-Madison chancellor Irving Shain and UW System president Robert O’Neill. Madison Mayor Joel Skornicka presented each athlete and coach a key to the city.

“There’s nobody like the people from your own hometown. Today has been really special,” Heiden said, addressing the crowd.

That day was not Heiden’s first on the turf at Camp Randall. He was a two-year letterwinner for the UW soccer team in the first two seasons of the program’s varsity history, playing midfield in 1977 and 1978. The soccer team used Camp Randall as its home field for the first seven seasons. Heiden left UW after his sophomore year to concentrate on his speedskating career. Turned out to be a pretty good choice.

Wisconsin State Journal - March 30, 1980
Wisconsin State Journal - March 30, 1980