Olympic Sports >> Speedskating


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The Competition


To obtain the fastest time against all competitors in a race against the clock. Skaters race in pairs counter-clockwise around a 400m rink.

12 Events (6 for men, 6 for women)

500m (men/women), 1000m (m/w), 1500m (m/w), 3000m (w), 5000m (m/w), 10,000m (m), Team pursuit (m/w)


Richmond Olympic Oval

Competition dates

February 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26 and 27

The Events


Competitors race in pairs over two heats. Each skater starts one heat from the inside and one from the outside. The skaters change lanes down the back straight. Times are measured to 100th of a second and the skater with the fastest overall time wins.

Other races

Skaters race in pairs over one heat and change lanes down the back straight. In a race against the clock, the skater with the fastest time wins.

Team pursuit

8 teams of 5, but 3 on the rink per team. There is a preliminary round against the clock which determines quarter-final matchups. (1st v 8th, 2 v 7, 3 v 6 and 4 v 5). Winners advance to semi-finals and final. Semi-final losers contest the bronze medal race. Two teams race against each other starting off from opposite sides of the rink. The time is taken when the third team member finishes.

Important Dates

  • 20000 BC : First blades created from bone.
  • 1200's : First skates are designed with steel blades in Holland.
  • 1500's : Races are organised on canals in Holland.
  • 1763 : First official competition takes place in England.
  • 1885 : First international competition takes place in Hamburg.
  • 1892 : Creation of the International Skating Union (ISU).
  • 1893 : First "official" world championships take place in Amsterdam under the banner of the ISU with race distances in metres and the title won by Jaap Eden of The Netherlands.
  • 1924 : Speed skating appears as an official sport at the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix. There are four races including the 500m, 1500m, 5000m, 10,000 as well as a gold medal awarded for all-around champion. Clas Thunberg of Finland wins five medals including three gold.
  • 1960 : Women compete in the Olympic speed skating event for the first time at Squaw Valley. Lydia Skoblikova of the Soviet Union wins her first two gold medals.
  • 2006 : Team pursuit makes its Olympic debut at Turin.


Clas Thunberg (FIN)

A speed skating legend and winner of five Olympic titles. At the age of 30, he was one of the stars at the first Games in Chamonix in 1924. Won gold in the 1500m, 5000m and overall races, adding silver in the 10,000 and bronze in the 500m. Skated to two additional Olympic titles in 1928 and also lifted 5 world titles and 4 European crowns as best overall skater.

Lydia Skoblikova (USSR)

Her six gold medals make Lydia Skobilikova joint record holder of Olympic women's titles, along with her cross country compatriot Lyubov Yegorova. Her first two wins came at Squaw Valley in 1960 and four years later, she won a record four golds at Innsbruck.

Eric Heiden (USA)

With with 5 individual Olympic golds at the same Olympiad (1980 Lake Placid) it was only 28-years later that swimmer Michael Phelps equalled this feat at the Beijing Games, although he also won three team golds too. A tireless worker, Heiden skated to seven world crowns, including 3 all-around titles and four sprints.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.