Speed Skating is a form of Ice Skating where the competitors cover a certain distance over ice as quickly as possible. Ranking is based on timing. Thus the goal of the competitors is to be the fastest. It is a Winter Olympic sport that is performed on an oval ice track. Speed skating races may take place either on a long track or a short track. The first World Speed Skating Championship was held in Montréal in 1897. Three countries, Norway, Germany and Canada contested and the world title went to Winnipegger Jack McCulloch.
Olympic speed skating, or long track speed skating, was introduced at the first Winter Olympics in 1924 in Chamonix, France. Women’s events for speed skating were included in the 1960 Squaw Valley Games. The long track is 400 meters in circumference and is usually outdoors. The track is divided into two lanes, with two skaters on each lane. The outer lane is larger than the inner lane, and the skaters switch lanes once in every lap. Racers may reach speeds as high as 30 mph during sprints as racers compete against the clock. Six to eight skaters can compete in the same lane in pack-style races. Athletes are timed to a hundredth of a second as they skate counter-clockwise around the oval.
In the Olympics, speed skating consists of ten events - 500m, 1000m, 1500m, and 5000m for women and men; 3000m for women; and 10,000m for men. All events are skated once, with the exception of the men's and women's 500 meters, which are skated twice. The final result is based on the total time of the two races.
Equipment for speed skating
Speed skaters in the inner lane wear a white armband and skaters on the outer lane wear a red armband.
A longer blade results in a faster skate until a point where length becomes an obstacle. The underside of the blade is only about 1mm thick.
Glasses protect skaters' eyes from the wind and ice chips. The lens reduces glare and improves visibility of the track.
The heel of the clap-skate blade is not attached to the boot, and the toe of the blade is attached to the boot with a hinged apparatus. Towards the end of each stride, as the skater picks up the skate, the blade briefly disconnects from the heel of the boot, thus keeping the blade on the ice longer and increasing the skater's pushing power. When the blade extends fully, a spring mechanism mounted on the front of the boot snaps the blade back up to the boot, resulting in the clapping sound that gives the skate its name.
Speed skaters are required to wear skin-tight racing suits with hoods to decrease air resistance. The racing suits must conform to the natural shape of the skater's body and they cannot insert or attach devices to create a different shape.
Short Track Speed Skating
Short track speed skating originated in Canada and the United States in 1905. The first known competition took place in 1909. Short track speed skating became part of the International Skating Union in 1967. International competitions began in the 1970s and an official International Skating Union competition was held in 1976. Short track speed skating’s first World Championship was held at Meudon-la-Forêt, France in 1981. It was introduced in the Calgary Winter Olympic Games as a demonstration event. Full medal status came in 1992 at the Albertville Winter Games.
Before the short track was introduced at the Olympics, skaters competed in short and long track events. Since the short track event has been established as an Olympic sport, and with the development of new indoor long track facilities, racers must specialize to succeed in the respective sports. Olympic short track speed racing has eight events – 500m, 1000m, and 1500m for men and women; 5000m relay for men; and 3000m relay for women. In short track speed skating, racers compete against each other. It is an elimination event where athletes race in packs and try to beat fellow competitors within their heats. In the end, the field is narrowed to a few finalists. The first one to cross the finish line is the winner. Actually, Olympic and world records have been set in non-medal heats.
Individual competitions start with 32 athletes. Individual heats figure four skaters at a time in a mass start. Athletes skate in a counter-clockwise direction, and the first two to cross the finish line advance to the next round. Sometimes more than two advance, depending on the number of heats and the nature of any disqualifications. The men's and women's short track relays are two-day competitions that consist of a semi-final and a final. Eight teams are divided into two heats of four. The top two teams in each semi-final advance to the final.
Equipment for short track speed skating
Gloves protect the skaters' hands from blades, especially important when going around a curve because the hand is placed on the ice to help maintain balance.
Goggles are not necessary, but some skaters wear them to protect their eyes from wind and ice chips. Tinted lenses reduce glare and aid visibility.
Hard plastic helmets prevent potential head injuries resulting from crashes with competitors, ice or side walls
Knee, shin, and neck guards offer protection from the blades of the skater in front.
Short track boots lace higher up the ankle. They are constructed from customized foot moulds and with heavier materials to help stabilize the foot and ankle around corners.
Blades are extremely sharp and are bent in at an arc that mirrors the direction of the turn in order to grip the ice around turns. Also, the blades are placed off-center to the left so that the boot does not touch the ice when the skater leans into the turn.
Skin-tight suits of short track speed skaters mould to the skater's body to reduce wind resistance.
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