Road To The Olympic Games

Short track speed skating: What you need to know for the Olympics

Short track speed skating is one of the most thrilling events at the Winter Olympics, with competitors jostling for position at intense speeds while circling a small, crowded track. Here's a guide to enjoying all the action in Pyeongchang.

Who, what and when to watch at the Winter Games

Canadian short track star Charles Hamelin, left, is looking to add to his three Olympic golds at the 2018 Winter Games. (Zsolt Czegledi/MTI via Associated Press)

By Benjamin Blum, CBC Sports

Short track speed skating is one of the most thrilling events at the Winter Olympics, with competitors jostling for position at intense speeds while circling a small, crowded track.

But, aside from the size of the ice, what makes it different than long track speed skating? And which countries are favoured to reach the podium other than host South Korea?

Here's a guide to how to enjoy all the short track speed skating in Pyeongchang:

More compact, more contentious

The short track oval is about a quarter the size of its long track counterpart and does not have lanes. Depending on the race, four or six skaters compete against each other while going counterclockwise around the oval. 

The 500- and 1,000-metre events consist of four rounds, with the top two skaters in each race progressing through the bracket until the A and B finals. The 1,500 begins immediately with the quarter-finals, with the top three skaters in each race progressing until the A and B finals.

Medals are awarded to skaters in the A final, barring multiple disqualifications that would then take the B final results into consideration for the podium.


The relay events combine raw speed with strategic considerations regarding when to tag in the other team members. Unlike track and field relays, the distance skated doesn't necessarily have to be equal as long as all four teammates skate at least once and the same person skates the final two laps.

Eight teams are split into two semifinals, with the top two from each heat reaching the A final; while four active skaters make their way around the track, the other team members follow the race from the middle of the oval and wait for their opportunity to be tagged in.


High stakes on home ice

South Korea has been tremendously successful in short track's Olympic history, winning 42 medals — including 21 gold — over the course of seven Winter Games. For comparison's sake, no other country has won more than 10 short track golds heading into these Games.

There will be additional pressure for the team to perform in front of a home crowd, especially after the men's skaters were shut out of the podium in Sochi.

Adding insult to injury were Russia's three gold medals won by former South Korean skater Viktor Ahn, who is banned from competing in Pyeongchang despite protesting in an open letter that "there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion."

Champions and contenders

Canada earned a gold, silver and bronze in Sochi, and is sending an experienced selection of skaters to these Olympics to contend against South Korea and other short track powers like China, the Netherlands and the United States.

Charles Hamelin enters the Games as the defending champ in the 1,500m event, while Marianne St-Gelais earned her third Olympic silver four years ago. The team will be bolstered by skaters like Kim Boutin, Charle Cournoyer and Samuel Girard.


Important dates to remember

The full schedule of short track speed skating events can be found here, but here are some of the key times if you're interested in watching the medal rounds:

Men's finals

  • 1,500m: Feb. 10 at 7:22 a.m. ET
  • 1,000m: Feb. 17 at 7:21 a.m. ET
  • 500m: Feb. 22 at 6:13 a.m. ET
  • 5,000m relay: Feb. 22 at 6:47 a.m. ET

Women's finals

  • 500m: Feb. 13 at 7:07 a.m. ET
  • 1,500m: Feb. 17 at 7:05 a.m. ET
  • 3,000m relay: Feb. 20 at 6:23 a.m. ET
  • 1,000m: Feb. 22 at 6:23 a.m. ET

With files from The Associated Press

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