Those Heiden kids are at it again. Old-timers at the Madison ( Wis.) Figure Skating Club will recall that Eric and Beth had seemed hopeless. All they had wanted to do was race around the rink. They were still racing last week. Eric, now 18 and a University of Wisconsin freshman, was in Heerenveen, The Netherlands, as a member of the U.S. team in the men's world speed skating championships. Beth was competing in the women's world meet at Keystone, Colo. She is 17 now, the youngest and, at 88 pounds, the smallest member of the U.S. team. Eric is six feet and 165 pounds.
No way an 88-pound girl is going to beat the Europeans, many of whom have thighs that weigh that much, and, indeed, the Russians scored a one-two-three sweep in the overall standings. Which left it up to Eric in Holland.
First day, Eric won the 500 meters in 38.80, breaking the track record. He followed that with a ninth-place finish in the 5,000 to become the overall point leader with two events to go. On Sunday, he finished third in the 1,500, but the crushing 10,000 meters was still ahead. What's more, Eric was paired in his heat with defending world champ Piet Kleine of The Netherlands. Off they went. The crowd was stunned when Eric matched Kleine stride for stride, lap after lap, and beat him. Eric finished third in the event, and with the best point total was the new world champion, the first American man to win the title in the 76-year history of world speed skating.
"A worthy world champion," said the deposed Kleine. "When a youngster can skate that well over four distances, he deserves to win."
Eric was more modest. "People will read about it," he said, "and remember it for a week, but then they'll forget."
Golf, which prides itself on the technical precision of its many rules and the meticulous way golfers generally pay attention to those fine points, fell on its face in a matter involving an 18-year-old Californian named Joe Rassett. Rassett, representing the Northern California Golf Association, was playing Francisco Lopez of the Northern California PGA Section in a team match. On the 13th hole Rassett had an easy three-foot putt for a par. He had marked his ball and as he leaned over to respot it, his putter fell out of his other hand and hit the ball. It moved about three inches.
"I was stunned," Rassett said, in an item that appeared in Golf Digest. "Lopez yelled at me, 'That's a shot.' He was right, of course. It's a penalty."
Rassett then holed the putt for a bogey to halve the hole, and he and Lopez tied in their match, each earning half a point for his team. The PGA side won the match 10�-9�. "Had Rassett hung on to his putter," said Golf Digest, "it would have been 10-10."