In short track speed skating, athletes compete not against the clock, but against each other. This introduces the elements of strategy, bravery and skill needed for racing.
North American origin
Short track (or indoor) speed skating began in Canada and the United States of America were they held mass start competitions on an oval track as early as 1905/06. The lack of 400m long tracks led many North American skaters to practice on ice rinks. However, practicing on a smaller track brought new challenges, like tighter turns and shorter straightaways which lead to different techniques in order to win on a shorter track. These countries began competing against each other on an annual basis. The sport’s rise in popularity was partly thanks to the North American racing rules, which introduced a “pack” style of racing. Capitalising on this, the organisers of the 1932 Lake Placid Games, with the consent of the International Skating Union (ISU), agreed to follow these rules for the programme’s speed skating events.
Countries such as Great Britain, Australia, Belgium, France and Japan deserve a great deal of credit in the development of the sport since they participated in international open competitions before the sport was recognized by the International Skating Union. In 1967 the ISU declares Short Track Speed Skating an official sport but international worldwide competitions are not held until 1976. During this period of time countries kept competing amongst themselves.
After having been a demonstration sport at the 1988 Games in Calgary, short track speed skating became part of the Olympic programme in Albertville in 1992, with two individual events and two relays. The discipline comprises men’s and women’s events. Since the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, the programme of this discipline has included eight events.
It quickly became popular with the public, who are thrilled to watch rapid races on tight tracks. The skaters race so closely to each other that collisions and falls are inevitable, which is why the walls of the speed skating oval are padded.
In recent Games, China and Korea have emerged to challenge North American dominance in this event. Indeed at the 2006 Turin Games, it was South Korea who emerged as the nation to beat, winning an incredible six gold medals, and 10 medals in total.