Heiden has soft spot for 10,000m gold

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By Larry Fine

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Eric Heiden has a favorite among the five gold medals he won at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics and it makes him a fan of Dutchman Sven Kramer at the Vancouver Games.

"To me the best skater is the one who wins the 10,000 meters," American Heiden told reporters at the Richmond Olympic Oval on Thursday.

"The endurance, the technique, the power, it's all there. I really identify with a skater like Sven Kramer because he's got it all.

"My gold medal in the 10,000 meters is definitely the one I am most proud of. It's the toughest race, it's the best race. It was the final race of the 1980 Olympics and I broke the world record. That was something to be really happy about."

Heiden, a physician who now serves as the U.S. speed skating team's medical director, won every event in Lake Placid from the 500 meters sprint, through the 1,000, 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 meters races.

"At the time I didn't appreciate it. It seemed like a really natural progression of my career at the time," Heiden said.

"Over the years I have thought about it and now I do realize that it is probably something that will never be done again.

"It's been 30 years and it still doesn't feel all that long ago to me. And still, I have done a lot since then. I had a cycling career I am quite proud of. I'm very proud to be a physician now. There has been more in my life than just the medals."

Heiden said he sometimes talks to the skaters about his racing days.

"I can talk to them about the pressure and how to deal with the Olympics as far as what to expect, but if I see something on the ice, something technical, I go through the coach. You don't want to break that bond between a skater and a coach."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)