A Bit of History
Short track speed skating first appeared at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, as demonstration sport, and it was not until the 1992 games in Albertville that it became an official part of the Winter Olympics. It has become an integral part of the Games and short track spectators love the speed and intense competition between the athletes.
Short Track in Russia
In February 1985, classic speed skating races were replaced by short track skating at the World Universiade in Italy.
The Soviet team first competed in the world short track championships in April 1986 in the French city of Chamonix. The sport’s popularity in Russia has grown over time and short track racing stars have opened centers in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Short Track Today
Short track is a type of speed skating in which the athletes compete to cover a 111.12 meter oval ice track as quickly as possible.
The Olympic races include 500m, 1000m, and 1500m races (for both men and women), and relay races at 3000m (women) and 5000m (men). Eight sets of medals are awarded.
Short track skaters compete on an elimination basis. Following the group start, skaters use various tactics to be the first to the finish line. The winner is the first over the line and time is not a deciding factor in victory.
The individual competitions involve 32 skaters participating in heats of four athletes at a time. From each group of four, the top two finishers advance to the next round. That continues until the final four are identified, who then compete for the medals.
The relay involves 8 teams of four skaters each. Each team decides for itself the number of laps each athlete will skate. The only exception is the last two laps, which must be covered by the same skater (as long as he has not been injured). The first two teams from each semi-final advance to the final.
- Short track skates are higher than traditional racing skates. They are made individually for each skater and are made to especially fit the sole of his foot and his ankle while racing. The blades of the skates are extremely sharp, and 40-46 cm long.
- Special stiff gloves for short track racing protect the hands from being cut by the blades.
- Short track helmets are made from firm plastic to prevent potential head injuries.
- Special skin-tight suits mold to the skater’s body to reduce wind resistance.
- Knee, elbow, and neck guards offer additional protection from injury.