History of Short Track Speed Skating
Origin of Short Track
The sport of Short Track has been around for more than 100 years. The first club – the Aldwych Speed Skating Club – was formed in London in 1888. The sport spread to North America, then across Europe and became particularly popular in Belgium and Netherlands.
In the early history of the sport, it was known as Indoor Speed Skating, and differed from Speed Skating in that the racing was pack style, unlike Speed Skating, which was run in pairs against the clock. The International Skating Union was founded in 1892.
In North America, the sport quickly caught on, with many clubs forming in Canada and the United States.
The International Skating Union (ISU) added Short Track as a discipline in 1967 but did not hold international competitions until 1976 at Champaign, USA. This was followed by the first ISU Short Track Speed Skating Championships for Men and Ladies, held in 1978 at Solihull, England. This competition became the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in 1981 at Eudon La-Foret, France.
The sport spread quickly and soon more than 12 nations/regions participating. In the early 1980s the IOC gave its blessing for the sport to be a demonstration event at the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games.
The sport continued to grow and at the 1990 ISU Congress, the world team championships were created. The first ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Team Championships were held in Seoul, South Korea. Short Track became an official Olympic discipline at the Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games (France). The ISU Short Track Speed Skating World Cup series for Men and Ladies was launched in 1997.
Short Track today
The ISU has 87 affiliated national/regional fewderations/clubs, which are its members. The members represent 66 different nations/regions. (The number of nations and members are not equal because some countries have two national federations – one for the Speed Skating branch and another for the Figure Skating branch.)
There are 55 members who practice Short Track. About 28 members regularly participate in the world championships for Ladies and Men.
Short Track usually takes place on an indoor ice arena, measuring 60×30 m, on which a 111,12 m oval track is laid out, although slightly smaller surfaces are permitted when necessary.
Short Track has proven extremely popular with spectators ever since its inclusion in the Albertville Games because of the speed and tightness of the indoor track, the closeness of the skaters and the potential for collisions and falls. Nowadays, the walls of the indoor rink are padded for the protection of the participants.
Short Track at the Olympic Winter Games
Short Track was first introduced as a full medal Olympic Winter Games discipline in 1992 at Albertville, after being a demonstration sport at the Calgary 1988 Olympic Winter Games. At the Olympic Winter Games there are 32 Men and 32 Ladies competing for Individual honors as well as eight teams for the Ladies’ Relay and eight teams for the Men’s Relay. A Heat progression system (Heats, Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Finals) determines the medalists. At the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Ladies’ and Men’s 1500 m races were added.
Short Track Speed Skating Competition Format
Olympic Winter Games Competition Format
There are eight events In the Olympic Short Track program:
Men’s Relay 5000 m.
Ladies’ Relay 3000 m.
Men’s and Ladies’ Individual 1500 m.
Men’s and Ladies’ Individual 1000 m.
Men’s and Ladies’ Individual 500 m.
The Short Track competition at the Olympic Winter Games must be run in an indoor ice arena measuring 60×30 m, where a 111.12 m oval track is laid out. Besides the standard track there will be four other tracks laid out which are moved 1-2 m in either direction of the standard track to preserve good ice conditions. Each competitor will receive a helmet number assigned by the organizing committee for use throughout the entire Games.
Differences between the Olympic Winter Games and ISU World Championships
The Olympic Winter Games is a single distance competition with eight Finals, six for Individuals (500, 1000 and 1500 m for Men and 500, 1000 and 1500 m for Ladles) and two for Relays (5000 m for men and 3000 m for ladles).
The ISU World Championships is an overall competition over four distances (500, 1000, 1500 and 3000 m). In addition, the winners of the 500, 1000 and 1500 m events will be declared the world champions.
Short Track Speed Skating Equipment
Gloves are worn to protect skaters’ hands from blades. They are especially important when going around a curve because the hand is placed on the ice to help maintain balance.
Goggles are not required, but some skaters wear them to protect their eyes from wind and ice chips. Tinted lenses reduce glare and aid visibility.
Hard plastic helmets prevent potential head injuries resulting from crashes with competitors, ice or side walls.
Knee, shin, and sometimes neck guards offer protection from the blades of the skater in front.
Short track boots lace higher up the ankle than traditional speed skating skates and are constructed from customised foot moulds and with heavier materials to help stabilise the foot and ankle around corners. To grip the ice around turns, blades are extremely sharp and are bent in at an arc that mirrors the direction of the turn. In addition, blades are placed off-centre to the left so the boot does not touch the ice when the skater leans into the turn.
Skin-tight suits mould to the skater’s body to reduce wind resistance.