It is believed that skates were developed about 3000 years ago in Scandinavia. In the Netherlands, skating served as a way to travel over the canals in winter and the Dutch are still among the world’s most avid skaters.

Although the Netherlands is the birthplace of speed skating, the first known skating competition is thought to have been held in 1676. Competitions sprung up across the northern part of Europe shortly after, but the first official speed skating events were not held until 1863 in Oslo, Norway. In 1889, the Netherlands hosted the first World Championships, bringing together the Dutch, Russians, Americans and English.

Speed Skating has been a part of the Olympic programme since the 1st Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix Mont Blanc in 1924. Originally only men participated, but women’s events were included in the 1960 Squaw Valley Games.

Short Track

Short track speed skating races began to occur in Europe shortly after speed skating became an established international sport. The International Skating Union was founded in 1892, three years after the first long-track World Championships.

Prior to the arrival of short track at the Olympics, it was common for skaters to compete in short and long-track events. Short track ovals were covered and offered a place for skaters to train all year. Many long-track racers would practice sprinting and turning techniques around the small oval. Some even competed in short track competitions. With the development of new indoor long-track facilities, the cross-sport training is not as popular anymore. Also, now that short track has become established as an Olympic sport, racers have been forced to specialise to succeed.

Short track speed skating was first included in the official programme at the XVI Olympic Winter Games in Albertville in 1992.


At the Olympic Games, Short Track Speed Skating consists of eight events. Men and women compete in 500m, 1000m, and 1500m. There is a 5000m relay for men, and a 3000m relay for women.

Skaters compete not against the clock, but against each other. Four skaters compete in a race with those placed first and second advancing to the next round. Winning depends to a considerable extent on a racer’s strategic skill over an opponent.

Short track speed skating is an elimination event in which athletes race in packs and try to outskate and outwit fellow competitors within their heats. Eventually, the field is narrowed to a handful of finalists. The first one to cross the finish line is the winner. Time is secondary. In fact, Olympic and world records have been set in non-medal heats.

Individual competitions begin with 32 athletes. Individual heats feature four skaters at a time in a mass start. Athletes skate counter-clockwise, and the first two across the finish line advance to the next round. Sometimes more than two advance, depending on the number of heats and the nature of any disqualifications.

The men’s and women’s short track relays are two-day competitions consisting of a semi-final and a final. Eight teams are divided into two heats of four. The top two teams in each semi-final advance to the final.


  • 500m Men/Women
  • 1000m Men/Women
  • 1500m Men/Women
  • 3000m Relay Women
  • 5000m Relay Men

Long Track

Long track takes place on a 400 meter oval, similar to a running track. Skaters race in pairs against the clock on a standard 400m oval. Athletes are timed to a hundredth of a second as they skate counter-clockwise around the oval. It was the first event competed at the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix 1924, and American Charles Jewtraw took home gold.


Long Track Speed skating at the Olympic Games consists of ten events: 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m for both woman and men, 3000m for women, 10,000m for men, and Team pursuit and sprint for women and men. All events are skated once, with the exception of the men’s and women’s 500 meters, which are skated twice and final result is the total time of the two races.

LIST OF EVENTS for Long Track

  • 500m Men/Women
  • 1000m Men/Women
  • 1500m Men/Women
  • 3000m Women
  • 5000m Men/Women
  • 10000m Men
  • Team Pursuit Men/Women
  • Team Sprint Men/Women