Winter Olympic Games: Short Track Speed Skating

Strategies and not speed determines the winner in short-track skating.
Strategies and not speed determines the winner in short-track skating.

Short-track skating is a competitive high-speed ice skating sport, where four to six skaters compete on the oval field covering 364.54 ft long. The rink is 98 feet wide and 200 ft long, which is similar to the size of the international ice hockey rink, and athletes compete against each other and not the clock. This sport has been part of the Winter Olympics ever since the Olympics adopted it in 1992. Before it was adopted it was an exhibition sport in the Winter Olympic Games in 1988.

Instead of starting the contest in pairs; which is the case on the long track, competitors begin with four to eight competitors at the starting point. The lot determines the ranks plus the contest pits competitors against each other. Strategies and not their speed determines the winner, in fact, the winner is not always the fastest competitor in the race. The contesters in this sport use the same strategies as the track racers. While many skaters may choose to conserve their energy at the beginning of the race only to finish sprinting, well-conditioned athletes begin rushing with the hope of wearing out their competitors.

The Origin

The sport originated from the speed skating in Canada and United States. The Canadians and the Americans started short track skating in 1905/06, and the competitors were racing in a 1,312.34 ft contest on an oval track. Racing in a smaller path came with new challenges like short straight-aways and tighter turns, so the contesters had to come up with different strategies to win. Unlike the international sports where the skaters performed in pairs, the original skating competition involved about eight athletes who started racing together. In 1932, the Olympics games conducted the speed skating event in the mass launch system. Skating competitions were done indoors and the popularity of the sport grew partly because of the rules of the North America racing, which introduced the mass racing style. Various nations like France, Belgium, Australia, Japan, and Great Britain contributed to the popularization of this sport by participating in the international winter games before 1967.

Rules and Regulations

A skater may be disqualified when they trip, block, or push the other athletes while competing. Skating off-track right outside the designated track and assisting another competitor can result in disqualification. Driving a foot in front to reach the finish line faster, which can cause lifting off of the ice thus endangering the others, results in elimination. Other behaviors like kicking one’s feet, may also lead to disqualification. Starting a race before the referee fires the starter pistol for the second time can result in debarment. An athlete is said to have not skated if they did not appear at the start line and the only way one cannot finish the race is when they are injured while racing.

Winners of the 1992 Olympics

The first Olympic competition began on February 18, 1992, and ended on February 22, 1992. Sixteen countries participated. The competitors took part in four different contests at the Le Halle de-grace Olympique for both men and women. South Korea won the competition with three medals (two gold medals and one bronze) followed by Canada who had one gold medal and two silver medals. The United States was the third on the medal standing with one gold and one silver medal. South Korea won the two male races with Kim Ki-hoon winning the 3,280.84 ft contest and the relay team winning the 16,404.2 ft contest. The Canadian contesters took the second position in both male races with Frederic Blackburn getting a silver medal. Japan took the bronze medals in the men relay contest.

Current Olympic Records

The current 1,640.42 ft Olympic record holder is Charles Hamelin from Canada who set the record on February 25, 2010. Lee Jung-Su from North Korea is the current holder of both 3,280.84 ft and 4,921.25 ft Olympic record which he set on February 20, 2010, and February 13, 2010, in Vancouver. Wang Meng from China set the 1,640.42 ft women Olympic record on February 17, 2010, in Vancouver. Valerie Maitais from Canada set the current 3,280 ft Olympic record in the 2014 winter Olympic in Sochi, while Zhou Yang from China set the current 4,921.25 ft record back in the 2010 Vancouver winter Olympics. The Chinese women relay team set the 9,842.52 ft record during the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.


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