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Skating: Speed skating

Chad Hedrick

When it comes to generating speed without mechanical assistance, no one does it better than a speed skater.

Competitors travel in excess of 60mph as they fly around the 400m oval track on blades 1mm thick.

Aerodynamics is the name of the game, with skaters adopting a low position to keep air resistance to a minimum.

Skaters must have power, technique and supreme endurance - a men's 10,000m race lasts about 13 minutes.


Skating graphic

Skaters race in pairs against the clock, starting in separate lanes and on opposite sides of the track.

There is an exchange zone where they switch lanes once a lap to ensure they both cover the same distance, with priority given to the skater coming from the outside lane.

Once all the skaters have raced, the one with the best time wins.

In the men's and women's 500m events, skaters complete two legs and their times are added together.

In the team pursuit, which will make its Olympic debut in Turin, two teams of three skaters each start from the opposite sides of the track.

Team-mates take it in turns to lead into the corners, the others follow closely behind and the clock stops when the third team member has crossed the line.

The competition proceeds on a knock-out basis until there are two teams left to contest the final.

Skaters can be disqualified for:

• Committing the second false start of the two skaters

• Crossing the lines dividing the lanes

• Not changing lanes at the exchange zone

• Interfering during lane changes

A skater can get up and continue the race if they have fallen. If they fall at the finish, the clock stops when the first skate crosses the line.

If a skater is hurt by an opponent crashing or seriously interfering with them, they can rest for 30 minutes and then race again to try to clock a better time.

Skating guide

Apart from the skates, all you need in speed skating is something to wear.

It is important to be as streamlined as possible, so skaters wear skin-tight suits with hoods to reduce air resistance.

These are often tested in wind tunnels, but they cannot have any special aerodynamic attachments.


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

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.

There are no long track speed skating facilities in the UK, but you can try short track instead.

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


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