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In 1763, thirteen years
before America declared independence, the English organized the
first known speed skating race. This speed skating race was held on
the Fens in England and the distance of the first race was
approximately 24 kilometers or roughly 15 miles long.
From the time of this
first speed skating race, it took about a hundred years for the
sport to reach North America. Some believe that Scandinavian
immigrants introduced speed skating to North America. The first
known speed skating race in North America took place in Canada on
the Saint Lawrence River from Montreal to Quebec in 1854. Speed
skating quickly became a regular sport in Canada and in 1887, the
Amateur Skating Association of Canada was formed (now known as Speed
Skating Canada). In 1892, the International Skating Union (ISU) was
created in the Netherlands, and established international standards
to govern skating sports. Canada's Amateur Skating Association joined the ISU in 1894. The first Olympic speed skating
race took place in Chamonix, France during the 1924 Olympics. The
first Olympic speed skating race was a menís 500 meter race and
Charles Jewtraw from the United States earned the first gold medal.
Women's speed skating became an official event in the 1960 Olympics
at Squaw Valley, California.
Olympic Speed Skating
Olympic speed skating
consists of eight races: the menís and womenís 500 meter race; the
menís and womenís 1,000 meter race; the menís and womenís 1,500
meter speed skating race; the womenís 3,000 meter speed skating
relay; and the men's 5,000 meter speed skating relay.
The Race: In preparation
for the speed skating race to start, the speed skater leans forward
with their knees bent in a crouched position. Their skates are
sometimes parallel and approximately at a 45 degree angle to the
starting line. Others may put their lead foot away from the starting
Once the pistol is
fired, the speed skaters push off and make a powerful thrust with
their front leg. Their arms swing rapidly to gain momentum. The
speed skaterís first few running steps are short. After this, it is
important for speed skaters to begin to glide and lower the body
position. If the skater takes too many running steps, they will not
increase their speed as fast as they would otherwise, and would
unnecessarily burn up an excessive amount of energy. Speed skating
requires great attention to the efficient use of energy.
If racing in the 500
meter speed skating race, the arms will continue to swing. In the
1000 and 1500 meter races, with the exception of the turns and
finish, the speed skater will normally only swing one arm to
conserve energy. If the speed skating race is 3000 to 5000 meters or
longer, skaters normally put their arms behind them for the entire
race to conserve energy.
The efficient use of the
arms is particularly important during speed skating. The best speed
skaters will swing their arms only when it is to their advantage.
Inexperienced speed skaters will waste a lot of energy, and lose
time by swinging their arms improperly. In speed skating, skaters
stay in the crouched position throughout the race. Any bobbing the
body makes means a time loss for the skater. The uniform or outfit
used for speed skating consists of a skintight racing suit with a
hood for better aerodynamics.
Speed Skating Skates
In speed skating,
skaters wear the new klapskate that was invented in the
mid-eighties. The klapskate was not widely used for nearly a decade
in speed skating, until it was proven to increase the speed skaterís
time. The klapskate has a blade that is not attached at the heel to
the boot, unique to speed skating. This new design prevents the tip
of the blade from digging into the ice, and keeps the blade on the
ice for a longer period, thereby increasing the pushing power of the
speed skater. Klapskates have been approved to use at Olympic speed
skating competitions since the 1998 Olympics at Nagano, Japan.
Getting Started Speed
If youíd like to get
involved in speed skating, but are new to ice skating, we recommend
you start with the basics. It would be to your advantage to learn
the ice skating basics using regular ice, figure or hockey skates,
before trying speed skating. The speed skate has a longer blade
which makes it more difficult to learn on, and is considered to be
more dangerous. Some ice skating rinks do not allow speed skates to
be brought in for safety reasons. Once you feel comfortable ice
skating and have the basics down, then move on to speed skating.
After you make that
decision to give speed skating a try, the first thing youíll need is
to purchase a pair of speed skates. Once you select a pair,
the next step will be to learn to skate in a very unnatural crouched
position. Next, youíll need to learn the proper arm movements (a
variation of swinging or clasping your arms behind your back). If
you want to become a competitive speed skater, we recommend you find
a place to take speed skating lessons. Practicing often and
correctly, like most things, will be an important ingredient to your
success. We invite you to use our Ice Skating Rinks locator to find
the rink nearest you, and give them a call to inquire about speed