Winter Olympic Games: Speed Skating

Women's speed skating event at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games. Editorial credit: Iurii Osadchi /

Since 1924 during the first Winter Olympic Games, speed skating has been included as a sport. During the founding of the International Olympic Committee, the International Skating Union (ISU), which is the official governing body for the speed skating sport, was recognized to be a federation. The first ever recorded speed skating competition in the Winter Olympic Games were to be held in Berlin in the Summer Olympics of 1916 but due to the brake out of WWI, the events were cancelled. The first internationally recognized Winter Olympic Games had 5 speed skating sports in an event called ‘1924 Winter Olympics’ which took place in Chamonix, during the International Winter Sports Week. These events included well organized competitions across the board and also had medals given for personal distances. After 1928, this all-round event was eliminated. In 1996, the famous single distance World Championships was introduced.

Athlete Eligibility and Qualification Pathway

With the next Winter Olympics Games in speed skating fast approaching, athlete eligibility is very crucial. The only athletes who will be allowed to take part in speed skating during the Winter Olympic Games are those who have complied with the Olympic Charter. Key to this is an athlete’s nationality as stipulated in the Olympic charter Rule 41. The Special Olympic qualification classification (SOQC) is normally calculated on the basis of the ISU rules for each event. There are two sets of ranking in the SOQC: the SOQC times ranking placed on the basis of the best times recorded per single skater in the world Cup Competition, and the SOQC points ranking as attained in the World Cup during the World Cup Competitions. If by any chance there is a tie in the times ranking and point ranking, the International Skating Union will use the rules outlined in the ISU World Cup Communication manual to determine the winner.

Men’s Events and Women’s Events

In the Winter Olympic Games, despite the fact that speed skating was officially recognized as a sport to participate in the competition, the women’s events commenced in 1960 for the first time in history. There are always stipulated maximum number of women and men participants according to the National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and the total number of the participating skaters cannot exceed the total quota places allocated.

Host Countries

There have been 22 venues so far used for the Winter Olympic Games in speed skating. During the first speed skating Winter Olympic Games, events used to take place on natural ice outdoors. Albertville was the last host place for the events that took place outdoors. In 1988, an indoor venue was constructed in Calgary. Ever since the 1994 Winter Olympic Games speed skating events, all the other speed skating events for the long track have been indoors. These are some of the other host places for speed skating Winter Olympic Games: the 2006 Turin games took place at the Oval Lingotto, the 2014 Sochi games took place at the Adler Arena Skating Center, and the upcoming 2018 Pyeong Chang games will be held in the Gangeneug Oval.


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