Speed skating has been part of the Olympic Winter Games since the first edition, in Chamonix in 1924, with women’s events added to the programme at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley. In Sochi, men and women will each race over 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m and 5,000m. Men will also contest the 10,000m, while women will also race over 3,000m. Since 2006, men’s and women’s team pursuit events have also been held.
Events are held on a 400m oval rink with skaters racing in lanes and in pairs. Their times are recorded and the best times over the distance win the medals. The pairs racing also features a crossover each lap in which racers change lanes, eliminating the advantage of drawing an inside berth.
The team pursuit, meanwhile, is skated by teams of three skaters. Two teams race at a time, starting on each side of the track at a line in the middle of the straightway. Men skate eight laps and women skate six laps, using only the inner lane.
Athletes to watch
Double Olympic champion Ireen Wüst, of the Netherlands, won women’s world titles over 1,500m and 3,000m in 2013 and looks set to challenge for more medals in Sochi. In the women’s 500m, Korea’s reigning Olympic champion Sang-hwa Lee will be looking to defend her title, having won the world title in 2012 and 2013, while Russia’s Olga Fatkulina, who won the 2013 world 1,000m title, is likely to carry the hopes of the host nation.
Wüst’s compatriot Sven Kramer – who won 5,000m gold in Vancouver – is also likely to feature on the podium, with fellow Dutchman Jan Smeekens set to challenge the USA’s Shani Davis and Korea’s Mo Tae-bum over the shorter distances. Russian fans, meanwhile, will be looking to Denis Yuskov and Ivan Skobrev to ignite the home crowd.