Winter Olympics: All About Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating

All About Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating

Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating are two separate events but since they are somewhat similar and more importantly we’re running very low on time to write previews before the games start, let’s double up!

Speed Skating (long track) and Short Track are very similar to track and field in the Summer Olympics, Athletes race each other around an oval course. The fastest one wins! The only real difference is that there are skates and ice involved. Which, really when you think about it, is a pretty big difference. Running is natural and most everyone can do it to some extent. Skating is learned. Speed skating is more foreign than running and because of that, very impressive,

How Does Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating Work?

Both sports are contested on oval shaped skating rinks but, as their names suggest, the tracks are of different sizes. Short track tracks are 111 meters around. They fit in an international sized hockey rink which is just a bit bigger than an NHL rink. Long track tracks are 400 meters around, so basically the same size as a running track. The skates are different too. Long track racers have long skates and short track racers short ones, Full stop.
One important difference between the sports is that long track racers race primarily against the clock while short track racing is a bit more like a roller-derby, full of collisions and wipeouts.

Why Do People Like Watching Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating?

Both events are a joy to watch but they’re very different. I enjoy watching short track because it is so incredibly tactical. Racers lurk behind one another waiting to make a quick move to pass the leader and get to the front of the race. Move too fast and you could open the door for someone else to do unto you what you just did unto them. Move too late and you might not have the energy or speed to get to the front. There’s also the question of how teammates will react to one another in the individual events. Sure, there’s only one Gold medal, but athletes from the same country often help each other to a point. Watching where that point is when fellow countrymen or women turn from cooperation to competition is always fun. Long track is enjoyable in a different way. The skaters’ movements have a majestic quality to them. Every movement is powerful and efficient. Their strides are long and although they are moving insanely fast and putting out incredible effort, they look relaxed.

What are the Different Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating Events?

Long track has seven events, five for men and women and two that are single gender events. Six of the events are simply different distances of the same kind of race. In the 500, 1,000, 1,500, 3,000 (women,) 5,000, and 10,000 (men) meter races, two competitors start next to each other and proceed around the track in the same direction. So that they travel the same distance, on the back straight-away the two riders switch lanes — outside and inside around the curves. The last long-track event is a Team Pursuit. In the Team Pursuit, two teams of three racers each start on opposite sides of the course. They are allowed to stay on the inside track the whole time and if one team passes another the race ends. Usually this doesn’t happen and the clock ends up deciding who has won.
Short Track has five events, three for men and women and two that are just for one gender each. There are three individual races of different distances: 500, 1,000, and 1,500 meters. And there are two relay races of different distances: 3,000 meters for women and 5,000 for men. Short track races use heats to qualify for the medal races.

How Dangerous are Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating?

Not that dangerous. The only real gory danger comes from the blades of the skates which are razor sharp. In the unlikely crash during a long track race or the quite common crash during a short track race, you don’t want to see someone cut by a skate. Luckily these are Olympic athletes with Olympic reflexes and they are almost always able to avoid calamity.

What’s the State of Gender Equality in Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating?

As you saw up in the section about events, these are two of the sports that set themselves up believing that women can’t or shouldn’t race as far as men. In Short Track it’s the difference between a 5,000 meter relay and a 3,000 one. In long track the men get the brutal and brilliant 10,000 meter race and the women instead get a 3,000 meter race squished in between the 1,500 and the 5,000 which both genders compete in. It’s time to change this — let the women race the 10,000.

What are Some Fun Speed Skating and Short Track Speed Skating Stories?

One thing I love about sports is how some nations can become so tied to a single sport and dominate it even or especially if they are nations you wouldn’t expect. Both of these sports have that element.

In long track, it’s the Dutch that are dominant. The Dutch have a long history of speed skating. There’s an awesome race called the Elfstedentocht that is run on frozen canals that connect eleven towns in the norther province of Friesland. It’s only run when the ice is good enough, so many, even most years go by without an Elfstedenotcht which makes it even more special.

In Short Track, South Korea reigns supreme over nearly everyone with 17 Gold medals. The other countries that are good at Short Track are China, the United States, and Canada. You can make up a good natural rivalry story between almost every pair of these four countries and the combative nature of the sport accentuates this. It’s really fun!

Thanks for reading,

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