Olympic Speed Skating Links
This page has links that will help you find the latest news and best sites about Speed Skating at the Winter Olympic Games.
From Dutch Canals to Short Track, Speed Skating Competition Always Exciting
The Netherlands is considered by many to be the birthplace of speed skating. Skates were used to travel over the canals in winter, and racing competition naturally developed. The discipline has been a part of the Olympics since the first Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924, where only men competed. Women's events were included in the 1960 Squaw Valley Games. Competition at the Olympics consists of ten events of varying distances for individuals, as well as a Team Pursuit. All events are skated once, with the exception of the 500 meters, which consists of two heats, with the final result based on total time of both races. In each event, skaters race counter-clockwise in pairs against the clock on a 400m oval. Skaters beginning in the outer lane wear a red armband; those on the inner lane wear a white armband. The athletes change lanes each lap on the back straight, with the skater passing from outside to inside given priority.
Speed skaters wear clap-skates, on which the heel of the blade is not attached to the boot and the front is attached with a hinge, thereby maximizing the blade's time on the ice and increasing pushing power. Skaters wear skin tight racing suits with hoods to decrease wind resistance. However, the suit must conform to the shape of the skater's body, with no attachments to increase aerodynamics allowed. Air resistance accounts for nearly 70% of the physical resistance to speed skaters, with skate-ice friction accounting for the remaining 30%. On curves, a skater is pushed outward by a centrifugal force of 60 kg in the inner lane, 52 kg in the outer. Athletes must counteract this force by leaning 45° when in the inner lane and 49° in the outer.
Short track speed skating had its unofficial Olympic debut in 1932 at Lake Placid, when the American hosts convinced the ISU to hold the speed skating events in the North American style of pack racing. Many European teams boycotted, and the style of paired competition resumed at the next Winter Games.
Short track was admitted to the Olympic program as a medal sport in Albertville in 1992. Olympic short track speed skating consists of eight events of varying lengths, including a relays. Skaters compete not against the clock, but against each other. Individual competitions begin with 32 athletes who compete four at a time in a mass start, skating counterclockwise, with the first two finishers advancing to the next round. Unlike traditional speed skating, a racer's strategic skill over an opponent has a considerable impact on the outcome of a race. Short track relays are two-day competitions consisting of a semi-final and a final. Eight teams compete in heats of four, with the top two teams in each semi-final advancing to the final until an overall winner is determined.
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