Speed skating is a competitive form of ice skating in which the competitors race each other in travelling a certain distance on skates. Types of speed skating are long track speed skating, short track speed skating, and marathon speed skating. In the Olympic Games, long-track speed skating is usually referred to as just “speed skating”, while short-track speed skating is known as “short track”. The ISU, the governing body of both ice sports, refers to long track as “speed skating” and short track as “short track skating”.
The standard rink for long track is 400 meters long, but tracks of 200, 250 and 333⅓ meters are used occasionally. It is one of two Olympic forms of the sport and the one with the longer history. An international federation was founded in 1892, the first for any winter sport. The sport enjoys large popularity in the Netherlands and Norway. There are top international rinks in a number of other countries, including Canada, the United States, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Russia. A World Cup circuit is held with events in those countries and with two events in Thialf, the ice hall in Heerenveen, Netherlands.
Short Track Rules
Races are run counter-clockwise on a 111 meter track. Short track races are almost always run in a mass start format in which two to six skaters may race at once. Skaters may be disqualified for false starts, impeding, and cutting inside the track. False starts occur when a skater moves before the gun goes off at the start of a race. Skaters are disqualified for impeding when one skater cuts in front of another skater and causes the first skater to stand up to avoid collision or fall. Cutting inside the track occurs when a skater’s skates goes inside the blocks which mark the track on the ice. If disqualified the skater will be given last place in their heat of final.
Long Track Rules
Races are run counter-clockwise on a 400 meter oval. In all individual competition forms, only two skaters are allowed to race at once. Skaters must change lanes every lap. The skater changing from the outside lane to the inside has right-of-way. Skaters may be disqualified for false starts, impeding, and cutting inside the track. If a skater misses their race or falls they have the option to race their distance again. There are no heats or finals in long track, all rankings are by time.
The starting procedure in long-track speed-skating consists of three parts. First, the referee tells the athletes to “Go to the start”. Second, the referee cues the athletes to get “Ready”, and waits until the skaters have stopped moving. Finally, the referee waits for a random duration between 1 and 1.5 seconds, and then fires the starting shot. Some argue that this inherent timing variability could disadvantage athletes that start after longer pauses, due to the alerting effect.
In the only non-individual competition form, the team pursuit, two teams of each three to four skaters are allowed to race at once. Both teams remain in the inner lane for the duration of the race; they start on opposite sides of the rink. If four skaters are racing one skater is allowed to drop off and stop racing. The clock stops when the third skater crosses the finish line.