Speed skating is a winter sport with a long history of enjoyment. It involves navigating ice at high rates of speed and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. From beginners to experienced skaters, this sport has something to offer everyone.
Speed skating requires strong sport-specific skills, including balance, coordination, and strength, as well as knowing when to move faster or slower depending on the conditions of the ice. Accurate techniques are essential, such as improving cornering, accelerating, and braking control. Top performance relies upon complete control over techniques, power, and speed.
Competitions can range from sprint races lasting less than 30 seconds to marathon-style events that go on for many hours, sometimes crossing different countries or continents in the process. The fastest competitors routinely reach speeds of more than 40 miles per hour!
No matter your age or experience level, if you like going fast, then speed skating may just be the perfect fit for you! Take it from World Cup winner Sven Kramer: “You know you’re awesome when you feel the cold wind in your face…enjoy every second!” With proper training and safety equipment, enjoy what speed skating has to offer with confidence — make yourself proud with every passing mile!
History of Speed Skating
Ice skating dates back centuries. The people of Scandinavia and Northern Europe added bones to their shoes and used them to glide across frozen rivers, canals, and lakes. It was an activity of delight, not a mode of transport! This was written in 1194 by William Fitzstephen, who recorded it in London.
King Eystein Magnusson of Norway even boasted of his skills on ice skates. Later, Scotsman devised the iron-bladed skates, which enabled the sport to spread around the world. In 1642, The Skating Club Of Edinburgh was founded while speed skating races became more regular, with a notable competition held in England at Wisbech on Fens for 70 guineas.
Friesland’s 11 cities also encouraged touring challenges with long skating trails that eventually resulted in Elfstedentocht – an event that gained popularity over the years. North Americans developed the all-steel blade, which set up speed skating as major sporting activity by the 1900s; ISU (International Skating Union) was established in 1892 in the Netherlands too. Evidently, ice skating has always been popular right till today!
Equipment and Clothing
Speed Skating requires specialized footwear. Distinct from hockey skates and figure skates, speed skates are cut off at the ankle for compression. Depending on age and height, blades mostly range from 30 to 45 cm. For a short track, two points of boot attachment – heel and behind the ball of the foot – are a must. Clap skate long track attaches front only. The heel detaches through the front spring mechanism with every stroke. Manual sharpening asserted by jig is necessary.
The short track demands additional safety gear: spandex skin suit, helmet, gloves, knee and shin pads (in suit), neck guard (bib style), and ankle protection. Protective eyewear is mandatory; smooth ceramic or carbon fiber tips are helpful at corners to reduce friction. Competitors who race nationally must wear a cutproof kevlar suit too.
The long track needs the same gear as the short track but without the helmet, shin pads, knee pads, and neck guard requirements; protective eyewear is not mandatory either, nor does the necessity of a kevlar suit exist. A hood built into the suit replaces these items for this type of skating.
Types of Speed Skating
Races on a 111-meter track are run counter-clockwise. Skaters, up to six in number, typically begin races in a mass start format. Disqualifications can happen for three actions; false starts, impeding and cutting inside the track.
A false start is when a skater moves ahead of time before the starting gun. Cutting in front of another skater and causing them to stand or fall results in an impending penalty. Lastly, straying from the marked blocks used to identify the track will bring about disqualification. Disqualified participants receive last place in their heat or final.
Long-track speed skating requires athletes to race counter-clockwise on a 400-meter oval. In individual competition, only two skaters race at once. Every lap, they must change lanes, with the skater changing from outside to inside, having the right of way. False starts, impeding, and track-cutting result in disqualification. If a skater falls or misses their race, they may have a chance for another run.
The start procedure for long-track speed skating comprises three parts: Go to start; Ready; then one to 1.5-second wait with the firing of the starter’s pistol. Some assert this inherent timing variability can negatively impact those with longer pauses due to alerting effect.
Team Pursuit features two teams of three or four skaters competing side-by-side in the inner lane – the only non-individual competition form.
In Team Pursuit, one racer may drop out and stop racing while the clock stops when the third athlete crosses the finish line.
Techniques and Strategies
Speed skating is a tough sport. It takes strength, speed, and technique. Skaters must use their upper body and core strength to stay balanced, keep a low center of gravity for less wind resistance, and maintain good posture.
On top of physical attributes, skaters also need solid racing strategies: take the lead; draft off other skaters; make their move to pass others; anticipate opponents’ movements; avoid collisions. Spatial awareness is key for success on the track.
Training and Preparation
Speed skating’s tough. It takes hours each day, six days a week, of strength, endurance, and technique drills. That’s on-ice and off-ice workouts, including Weightlifting, plyometrics, and longevity training.
But it’s not just physical training. Mental preparation’s key. Skaters need to understand racing strategies and master the ability to stay focused and handle pressure during competitions.
Success means piecing together mind and body, drilling into details for initiative against the competition. Skaters must be prepared to think smartly, take risks, and recognize opportunities as they happen – in an instant if necessary!