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What is Speed Skating? Benefits and Equipment

What is Speed Skating
Posted by Skateraati Team / Jun 03, 2024

What is Speed Skating?

Speed skating is a thrilling and dynamic sport that involves racing on ice, requiring athletes to combine agility, endurance, and strategic prowess. This sport is a testament to human speed and precision, where competitors skate around an oval track, often reaching speeds comparable to those of a car on a city street. Whether on the ice of a natural lake or a state-of-the-art indoor rink, speed skating captivates both participants and spectators with its blend of technique, power, and grace. In this comprehensive blog, we see the fascinating world of speed skating, exploring its history, disciplines, techniques, notable athletes, and its cultural significance.

History of Speed Skating

Origins and Early Development

Speed skating has ancient roots, with the earliest forms dating back to the 13th century. The origins can be traced to Scandinavia and the Netherlands, where people used animal bones strapped to their feet to glide over frozen rivers and canals. This rudimentary method of travel eventually evolved into a recreational and competitive activity.

In the Netherlands, speed skating became especially popular, with evidence of organized races dating back to the 17th century. The Dutch influence is still evident today, as the country remains a powerhouse in the sport.

Evolution into Modern Sport

The transformation of speed skating into a modern sport began in the 19th century. In 1863, the first known speed skating club was established in Norway, marking the formal organization of the sport. By the late 19th century, speed skating competitions were being held across Europe and North America.

The establishment of the International Skating Union (ISU) in 1892 was a significant milestone in the sport’s development. The ISU played a crucial role in standardizing rules and organizing international competitions.

Introduction of the World Championships and the Olympics

The first official World Speed Skating Championships were held in 1893, further cementing the sport’s global appeal. Speed skating’s inclusion in the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924 in Chamonix, France, elevated its status and introduced it to a broader audience. Over the years, speed skating has become one of the marquee events of the Winter Games, showcasing the talents of the world’s best skaters.

Rules of the Game

Speed skating events take place on an oval rink that is generally 400 meters long. The rink is divided into two lanes, and the athletes race against each other in pairs. Players who compete in the same race need to switch lanes after each lap to ensure fairness. The athlete with the fastest time wins the race.

There are different races in speed skating, including the 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m, and 10000m. The races are timed, and the athletes race against the clock. In addition to these individual events, there is also a team pursuit event where teams of three players compete against each other. The team pursuit event is a relay race where each player takes turns leading their team for a set distance.

Techniques of Speed Skating

Speed skating requires a unique combination of power, balance, and technique. Athletes glide across the ice in a fluid motion, utilizing specialized skating techniques to maximize speed and efficiency. The two primary disciplines of speed skating are long track and short track, each with its own set of techniques and strategies.

In long track speed skating, athletes race around a 400-meter oval track, reaching speeds upwards of 60 kilometers per hour. Skaters utilize a technique known as the “double push,” where they generate power by pushing off with both feet simultaneously while maintaining a low, aerodynamic position.

Short track speed skating, on the other hand, takes place on a smaller, oval-shaped track with tight turns. Skaters must navigate the course amidst intense competition, often employing tactics such as drafting and overtaking to gain an advantage. Short track speed skating requires quick reflexes, agility, and precise cornering to navigate the course effectively.

Types of Skates

Speed skating skates are different from regular ice skates, and they are specially designed for speed and agility. The skates have a longer and wider blade that allows skaters to gain more speed, and they are also curved at the front and back, which helps with maneuverability. The skates are also fitted with special boots that offer ankle support and padding to help with balance.


In addition to the skates, speed skaters need to wear specific equipment to ensure their safety and performance. Here is a list of some of the equipment that speed skaters wear:

  • Helmet: All speed skaters must wear helmets to protect their heads in case of a fall or collision.
  • Gloves: Gloves help with grip and insulation and protect the skaters’ hands from the cold.
  • Skin suit: A skin suit is a tight-fitting suit made from a thin and lightweight material that reduces air resistance and increases speed.
  • Eye protection: Sunglasses or goggles are worn to protect the eyes from the glare of the ice.

Benefits of Speed Skating

Speed skating is not only a fun and exhilarating sport, but it also provides a variety of health benefits. Here are a few benefits of speed skating:

  1. Improves cardiovascular health: Speed skating is an excellent cardiovascular workout that can help improve heart health and circulation.
  2. Builds strength and endurance: Speed skating requires a lot of leg strength and endurance, and regular practice can help build these muscles.
  3. Burns calories: Speed skating is a high-intensity exercise that can burn a significant amount of calories in a short amount of time.
  4. Reduces stress: Any physical activity can help reduce stress levels, and speed skating is no exception. The adrenaline rush that comes with the sport can also provide a natural high that can help lift your mood.


Speed skating is a thrilling winter sport that has been enjoyed by millions of people around the world for over 100 years. It requires skill, dedication, and agility, making it a challenging but rewarding sport to participate in. If you’re looking for a fun way to get fit and enjoy the winter months, why not give speed skating a try? With the right equipment and training, you could be well on your way to becoming a speed skating champion.