What's it all about?
Whoosh! If you’re a speed freak that always wants to go faster, speed skating might be the sport for you. Imagine a speedrun in a video game, or boosting in Mario Kart, except it all happens on the ice. Oh, and no cheats or power-ups!
How it's played
The sport: The world’s fastest athletes on ice race on a 400 metre oval-shaped track.
The events: Seven events for both men and women, including the 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 3000m (women only), 5000m, 10,000m (men only), mass start and team pursuit. (See pictures below.)
The equipment: Speed skates, called clap skates, specially designed for super-speed! And cool suits that look like they came from Spider-Man’s closet.
The strategy: Rule number one is don’t wipe out. Rule number two is go fast!
The points: For most events it’s a race against the clock where the fastest time wins. Read on below to see how mass start and team pursuit events work.
The athletes: Speed skaters have big, strong thigh muscles. That’s where their speed and power comes from. But for the longer races, endurance is just as important as speed.
Did you know? The skaters can reach top speeds of 60km per hour, that’s almost as fast as a car on a highway.
Things to watch for
Lanes and crossovers
- When the skaters go around a corner they'll cross their outer foot over the inner one.
- That’s to help maintain balance and speed — this step is called a crossover.
- Skaters are required to change lanes once per lap, to keep the distance covered equal for all.
- In the various individual races, skaters race two at a time against the clock.
- The 500m is 1 ¼ laps, the 1000m is 2 ½ laps, and so on. The 10,000m is 25 laps!
- The shorter races require more speed, and the longer races require more stamina.
Ready, set, mass start
- The mass start event returned at PyeongChang 2018 after being absent for 86 years.
- In this race, up to 24 competitors are on the ice together at the same time!
- Skaters must race 16 laps, and are awarded extra points for finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd.
Canada has 37 Olympic speed skating medals, our most in any winter Olympic sport.
Speed skates, or clap skates, have hinges on them, so the boot can lift from the blade at the heel before clapping back into place. This gives the skater extra speed and agility.
Women's speed skating was officially added at the Olympic Winter Games Squaw Valley 1960.