Speed Skating 101
Speed Skating - What's It All About?
People have been racing each other on ice skates for hundreds of years - but it wasn't until 1889 that the first World Championships for speed skating were held in the Netherlands. In Olympic speed skating, athletes race around a 400 meter oval track for distances from 500 meters up to 10,000 meters. Skaters race against each other in pairs, with the skater who finishes with the fastest time being the winner. In short track speed skating, athletes race around a much smaller track (110 meters) in groups of four to six. Short track speed skating is a more exciting spectator sport because the athletes move faster and there are often nasty collisions on the ice.
Speed Skating - Getting Started
Speed skating is a fast and fun sport that is a great way to build leg strength and improve your cardio system. Speed skating can also improve your endurance, as well as strengthen your back and stomach muscles. Some people find the sport challenging at first, as it can be difficult to maintain the low body position required to be a strong skater. But once you get the hang of the sport, speed skating can be a fun workout. Speed skating is also a good crosstraining sport for skiers, ice hockey players and cyclists. Unfortunately, there aren't very many speed skating ovals in the United States - so unless you live near one, you may find it difficult to get involved in this exciting sport.
Speed Skating - Did You Know?
- Apolo Ohno, who won a gold medal in short track speed skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, began speed skating when he was 13, after switching over from inline skating.
- In short track speed skating, athletes reach speeds of more than 25 miles per hour (40 km.)
- At the 1980 Winter Olympics, Eric Heiden set a world record by winning 5 gold medals in speed skating.