Learn more about Speed skating
Speed skating or speedskating is a form of skating in which the competitors attempt to travel a certain distance as quickly as possible on ice skates. Types of speedskating are long track speedskating, short track speedskating, inline speedskating, and quad speed skating.
- origins in, amongst others, the Netherlands
- founding of International Skating Union (ISU, or IEV, die Internationale Eislauf Vereinigung)
Speedskating is a Winter Olympic Games medal sport. The sport was revolutionised in the late 1990s with the introduction of clap skates which can reduce lap times by about one second. The sport was really professionalised in the Netherlands where it is hugely popular. A speedskater in the Netherlands can get large sponsor contracts.
Speedskating is currently conducted on outdoor or indoor ovals, often with artificially frozen ice. For the Olympic Games, rules demand a closed (indoor) oval-shaped track. According to the rules of the International Skating Union, a standard track should be either 400 m or 333 1/3 m long. 400 m is the standard used for all major competitions. Tracks of other, non-standard lengths, such 200 or 250 m, are also in use in some places for training and/or smaller local competitions. On standard tracks, the curves have a radius of 25–26 m in the inner lane, and each lane is 3–4 m wide.
All races are held in pairs, for which two lanes on the track are used. Skaters wear bands around their upper arm to identify which lane they started in. The colours are white for inner lane and red for outer lane. At the back straight, the skaters switch lanes, which causes them both to cover the same distance per lap. When both skaters emerge from the corner at the exact same time, the person currently in the inner lane will have to let the outer lane pass in front of him.
Occasionally, quartet starts are used, for the pragmatic and practical reason of allowing more skaters to complete their races inside a given amount of time. This involves having two pairs of skaters in the lanes at the same time, but with the second pair starting when the first have completed approximately half of the first lap. The skaters in the second pair will then wear yellow and blue arm bands instead of the usual white and red.
There are primarily two types of skates, traditional ice skates and the clap skates. In long track speedskating, only clap skates are used in competition above recreational level. The clap skates were introduced around 1996, and were a revolution in that they are hinged to the front of the boot and detach from the heel, allowing the skater a more natural range of movement. This enables a longer stroke while keeping maximum contact with the ice. By the 1998 Winter Olympics, nearly all skaters used clap skates.
Both use long and straight blades compared to many other ice skating sports. Blades are about 1 mm thick and typically come in lengths from 13 to 18 inches (33–45 cm). Most competitive athletes use lengths between 15 and 17 inches, depending on body size and personal preference.
A lot of attention is given to air resistance. The rules demand that the suits follow the natural shape of the body, preventing the use of e.g. drop shaped helmets (as seen in cycling) or more inventive "Donald Duck" constumes. However, a lot of time and money is spent developing fabrics, cuts and seams that will reduce drag. Some skaters use low (no thicker than 3 mm) "aerodynamic strips" attached to their suits. These are intended to create turbulent flow in certain areas around the body.
 Competition formats
One of the oldest skating competition formats is the allround event. Skaters skate four distances and a ranking is made up based on the times skated on all of these distances. The method of scoring is the same for all combinations. All times are calculated back to 500-m times. That means that 500-m in 40 seconds will give you 40 points, while 1500-m (3×500-m) in 2 minutes (120 seconds, equivalent to 3×40 s) will also give you 40 points. Points are calculated to 3 decimal places, and truncation is applied, the numbers are not rounded. The skater who has the smallest combined pointsum wins the competiton. This system is called samalog or samalogue. The annual World Allround Speedskating Championships use the four classic distances 500-m, 5,000-m, 1500-m and 10,000-m for men, skated in that order, whereas the distances are 500-m, 3,000-m, 1500-m and 5,000-m for ladies. The World Allround Speedskating Championships have been arranged since 1893 for men and since 1936 for ladies.
 Sprint championships
The sprint championships are two-day events where skaters run the 500-m and 1000-m on both days. The final ranking of the athletes uses the samalogue or samalog system, as for allround. The final point-sum for a skater is therefore x1 + 0.5×y1 + x2 + 0.5×y2, where x1 and x2 are the 500-m times and y1 and y2 the 1000-m times (in seconds) achieved by the skater. To counter any systematic bias regarding inner versus outer lanes, skaters change start lanes from the first day to the second. Nations with active skaters arrange annual national sprint championships, and the ISU arranges annual World Sprint Speedskating Championships, for men and for ladies, since 1970. While there are annual European (Allround) Speedskating Championships, no such championships are arranged for the sprinters.
 Single distances
A more basic form of speedskating consists of skating a single event. This is the format used for the World Single Distance Championships, which have been arranged since 1996, and the World Cup. The usual distances are the 500-m, 1000-m, 1500-m, 3000-m (ladies only), 5000-m and 10000-m (men only), but some other distances are sometimes skated as well, such as 100-m and 1 mile. Women occasionally but rarely are given the possibility to skate the 10,000-m.
The 500-m is usually skated with two runs, so that every skater has one race starting in the outer lane and one in the inner. This practice started with the first of the World Single Distance Championships in 1996, and with the 1998 Nagano Olympics; at all earlier Olympics 1924--1994, the 500-m was skated only once. The reason for skating this distance twice is that there is a small but statistically significant average advantage of starting in the inner lane; negotiating the last curve at high speed is typically more difficult in the inner lane than in the outer lane.
In addition to international championships, the International Skating Union has organised the Speedskating World Cup since the 1985–1986 season. The World Cup works by ranking skaters by cumulative score during the season, for each distance separately, at specially designated World Cup meets. More specifically, there is for each season a World Cup competition for the 500-m, 1000-m, 1500-m, and combined 5,000-m and 10,000-m, for men; and for the 500-m, 1000-m, 1500-m, and combined 3,000-m and 5,000-m, for the ladies. There have been suggestions of making a grand total World Cup ranking by suitable aggregation of scores across distances, but such a ranking system has not yet been organised.
 Team pursuit
The team pursuit is the only team event in long track speed skating and is skated by teams of three skaters. Two teams race at a time, starting at a line in the middle of the straightaway. One team starts on each side of the track. Only the inner lane is used, and the distance is 8 laps for men and 6 for women.
There are several formats for the team pursuit. The Olympic format is unusual in that it is a cup format, with several rounds of exclusion between two teams. In the World Cup and World Championships, one race is skated and the teams are ranked by their finishing time. In the Olympic format, a team that overtakes the other has automatically won the race and the remaining distance isn't skated. In practice, the distance is so short that this rarely happens unless one team has a fall.
The team pursuit is a new event in major international competitions. Similar events have been skated for years on a smaller scale, but was not considered an "official" ISU event until around 2004. It was introduced at the Olympic Games in 2006.
Skaters skate in a large group and they skate large distances. When conducted at an ice rink oval, the distance is usually around 40 km, akin to the traditional marathon in running. When skated outdoor on natural ice, the distances can be as long as 200 km. An example of this is the famous Elfstedentocht (Eleven cities tour) which is irregularly held in the Netherlands. An example of a famous marathon outside the Netherlands is the International Big Rideau Lake Speed Skating Marathon in Portland, Ontario, Canada.
 Books about speed skating
- Dianne Holum: The Complete Handbook of Speed Skating (1984), ISBN 82-18174
- USOC: A Basic Guide to Speed Skating, Griffin Publishers - Torrance/Ca. (2002), ISBN 1-58000-087-8
- Barry Publow: Speed on Skates, Human Kinetics Publishers - Champaign, Ill. (1999), ISBN 0-88011-721-4
- Matthias Opatz: Taschenfibel Eisschnelllauf (Pocketguide Speedskating), Lotok Publ. - Stedten-upon-Ilm/GER (2005), ISBN 3-939088-00-5
 See also
 External links
- Speedskating discussion group
- US Speed Skating
- International Skating Union official web site
- Speed Skating Topics
- Speed skating resultsca:Patinatge de velocitat sobre gel
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