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Skating: Short track

Speed skaters

Winter Olympics guide - Short track speed skating

Short track is the more unruly younger brother of speed skating.

While speed skaters compete in separate lanes and against the clock, in short track everyone is racing together on the same stretch of ice.

The rink is smaller too, which means you can get some spectacular crashes as the skaters do all they can to finish ahead of the pack.

At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Steven Bradbury took gold for Australia in the men's 1,000m event after the three men ahead of him all crashed on the last lap.


In short track, the only thing you have to worry about is finishing ahead of your rivals.

The action takes place on a 110m oval track marked out at both bends with small rubber blocks.

The skaters must go around the outside of these blocks, but they can drag their left hands on the ice inside the blocks as they glide low around the bends in a counter-clockwise direction.

For individual events, the competition proceeds in heats of four or six competitors, depending on the distance.

The first two skaters to cross the line go through to the next round.

Any skater who pushes or obstructs an opponent, or causes a serious collision, can be disqualified.

The same fate awaits anyone who false starts twice.

Tactics play a big part in each race, with competitors often happy to track the leader and then produce a late charge to the line.

In relay events, eight teams compete, with four in each semi-final heat. The top two from each heat advance to the final.

Each team has four skaters, plus a substitute who can be drafted in if a team-mate falls, who swap in and out of the action during the race.

To exchange places, the skater gives his or her team-mate a hard push.

Handovers can be made along the two straights, and the same skater must complete the last two laps.

Skating guide

Apart from the skates, all you need in short track is something to wear and some protection for the head and body.

Skaters wear simple, skin-tight suits made from lightweight, stretchy fabric.

A hard-shell helmet is compulsory, as skaters travel at high speed and can crash out of a race at any time.

Kneepads, shinpads and gloves give extra protection.


There are a number of ice rinks across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland where you can learn to skate.

Australian Steven Bradbury had 111 stitches after a rival's skate became embedded in his leg in a crash in 1994

Beginners are advised to sign up to one of the National Ice Skating Association's Skate UK courses, which are open to both adults and children and are delivered by professional coaches.

Details can be found on the NISA website.

Anyone who can already skate and wants to learn more advanced skills should speak to a registered NCCP coach when they visit a rink.

And for more news and information on the skating world, visit the International Skating Union's website.


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