Skating in Vancouver: a mix of jumps, creativity and speed
Demonstrating creativity while executing precise jumps and movements, with a global audience and an eagle-eyed panel of nine judges watching, is the daunting task facing competitors in figure skating. But whether that prospect is more challenging than racing on an oval track on blade-thin, ankle-high skates in search of Olympic glory is a question to which speed skaters, both long and short track, could perhaps provide the answer.
Three events for figure skating
Olympic figure skating comprises three events: singles (men and women), pairs and ice dance. In singles, skaters must wow judges during both a short and free programme that are set to music, with a required sequence of steps, jumps, spins and combinations. A “free skate” section allows skaters to demonstrate their creativity. The pairs competition comprises a male and a female skater and follows the same format. Overhead lifts and jumps are not included in ice dance, where the focus is on combining rhythm and interpreting music while executing a number of precise steps and moves. The ice dance competition is made up of three parts: one compulsory dance, an original dance and a free dance.
Racing around the oval
Speed skating is staged on a 400m oval, with six events each for men and women, ranging from the 500m to the 10,000 m (men) and the team pursuit. Skaters start in pairs and must change lanes once per lap to level out the distance covered. The Netherlands’ Ireen Wust, already an Olympic speed skating champion and one of the top contenders for Vancouver, says: “My favourite distance would definitely be the 1,500m, but my ambitions for Vancouver are a lot greater. Winning gold medals in the 1,000m, 1,500m, 3,000m as well as the women’s team pursuit is the ultimate goal!” But the Vancouver Games will also see the rise of new stars, such as 15-year-old Miho Takagi, the youngest female speed skater from Japan ever to make an Olympic squad.
The short track version, which sees four to six athletes compete, is staged on a 111.12m oval and comprises four events each for men and women, including a relay.
Stunning sporting legacy for the Richmond Oval
Figure skating and the short track events will be held at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver which, post-Games, will serve as a venue for various events including ice shows, boxing, basketball, hockey, concerts, large assemblies, and trade and consumer shows.
The 8,000-capacity Richmond Olympic Oval is 14km south of downtown Vancouver and will host the speed skating events of longer distances. The town of Richmond will be a major beneficiary after the Games, when the Oval will be transformed into an international centre of excellence for sports, featuring two international sized ice rinks, eight gymnasiums, a 200m running track and 23,000 square foot fitness centre.