Just How Fast Do Olympic Speed Skaters Move on the Ice? Blink and You Might Miss Them


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USA's Maame Biney (L) and South Korea's Kim Alang take part in the women's 500m short track speed skating heat event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 10, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS        (Photo credit should read ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Like any ice sport, speed skating takes an incredible amount of stamina, balance, and endurance. However, it also requires an intense level of speed. In fact, my jaw nearly hit the floor when I learned how fast Olympic speed skaters can glide across the ice.

Reportedly, both short track and long track speed skaters can reach speeds of about 35 mph and occasionally even faster. Sounds pretty impressive, right? Now, imagine skating that fast around a 111-meter oval — or, in the case of long track, a 400-meter oval — with quick, sharp turns while also trying to out-skate and dodge your competition.

Described as “NASCAR on ice” by Olympian and three-time mass start world champion Joey Mantia, speed skating is not for the faint of heart. Due to the speed, acceleration, and likelihood of collision, many Olympians opt to wear extreme forms of protection such as cut-resistant gloves; hard shell helmets; knee, shin, and neck guards; and boots made from fiberglass, graphite, and Kevlar fabric. Suffice to say, these professional athletes aren’t letting anything get in their way.

At the 2022 Winter Olympics, short track speed skaters will have the opportunity to compete in a total of nine events, including the mixed 2,000-meter relay, which is making its Olympic debut. The events are organized by distance — 500 meters, 1,000 meters, and 1,500 meters — for all athletes; however, when it comes to short track relays, men compete in the 5,000-meter relay, while women race a 3,000-meter relay.

There will be a total of 14 long track speed skating events consisting of individual races, mass starts, and team pursuits. In this sport, individual events follow a similar structure: athletes compete in distances of 500 meters, 1,000 meters, 1,500 meters, 3,000 meters (women only), 5,000 meters, and 10,000 meters (men only). The 2022 Winter Olympics will begin on Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.

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