Eric Heiden Connection (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

It's a thrill to meet an amazing athlete and hear him speak.


Here's my distant connection to an Olympic Legend.

At the Winter Olympic Games in 1980 in Lake Placid...Eric Heiden dominated the way few athletes ever have.  He won 5 Gold Medals...he won every men's speed skating race there was.


He talked about that triumph this morning at the Peak Vista Breakfast of Champions.  Here's what he looks like today.

Breakfast Of Champions is an annual event to celebrate the achievements of  and raise money for Peak Vista Community Health Centers.  Peak Vista provides low cost health care to more than 60,000 patients every year in Southern Colorado.  It is a remarkable organization. Here's more info.  Shannon Brinias and I had the pleasure of acting as the emcees for the event.

Eric Heiden is also a doctor, and orthopedic surgeon. He talked about how crucial preventative medicine a simple problem can be treated before it needs major surgery from someone like him.  I saw high-level hospital people nodding in agreement with that.

It was fascinating to hear him talk about growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, playing all kinds of sports as a child, then ultimately choosing speed skating over hockey at about the age of 14.  He talked about how his parents were always supportive, but never pushy.  He advised all of us to be like that with kids. 

Now here's the connection.  When he was speeding his way to records and medals in 1980 we paid particular attention at my house. That's because my father went to high school with Eric Heiden's mother. Here's a yearbook page from West High School, class of 1953.

Bottom right corner is my father (also Don Ward)....upper left corner is Eric's mother Nancy. Dad told me yesterday that he and Nancy weren't close friends but that they knew each other.  You can see here that she did write something to him in his yearbook..57 years ago!


At a reception last night I had a few minutes to chat with Dr. Heiden.  He talked about how different his sport is now, how athletes speed their way around perfectly groomed tracks under perfect conditions.   Below it's me, Dr. Heiden, KKTV News Director Liz Haltiwanger and Sports Director Jesse Kurtz.

As we talked I mentioned to Heiden that my father graduated from high school with his mother.  He smiled and said, "Small world!" 

It really is a small world, and it's been occupied over the years by a handful of amazing Olympic champions.  Eric Heiden is one of the greatest ever!

We'll talk again soon.

Don Ward





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