Winter speed demons
(and curlers, too)
A downhill skier vs. a bobsled? A comically dressed curler vs. a brawny hockey player? Sure, each sport is different — some more graceful, others more death defying, and all performed in varying conditions — but all share something in common: the need for speed. The Washington Post analyzed the speeds of all major disciplines represented in the Sochi Olympics. Download a PDF version of the graphic here.
By Todd Lindeman and Katie Park
This is how far and how fast an athlete travels per second at top speed:
Johan Clarey, a French alpine skier,
hit 101 mph while competing in a 2013 World Cup downhill event.
At that speed, he could rocket from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial — a distance of about two miles — in 1 minute, 11 seconds. A curler, gliding across ice, would take nearly 11 minutes. A person walking at 4.5 mph would take nearly three times as long.
A Belgian and Swiss bobsled team
each topped out at 86 mph on the St. Moritz track
in Switzerland this season. At that speed, and without delay, their bobsled could fly through Metro's Red Line tube from Union Station to Metro Center in less than a minute, arriving more than two minutes earlier than a Metro train running at an average speed of 26 mph through that same stretch.
Top speeds for downhill skiing, bobsled, luge, skeleton, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, speedskating, freestyle skicross and snowboard cross are based on World Cup results from the 2013-14 season. Speeds at which hockey players skate are based on analysis of the National Hockey League’s fastest skater competition and game footage of women’s competition. The average speed for figure skaters could not be determined; however, skaters need to be going about 20 mph to successfully land a quadruple jump, the most difficult element.
NOTE: Cross-country speeds are on the flats only. Isaac Wilson, Amer Nordic commercial manager for Salomon and Atomic Skis, reports that both men and women are surpassing 50 mph on the downhill in Sochi, one of the fastest downhills in international competition.
SOURCES: International Ski Federation; International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation; International Luge Federation; World Curling Federation; International Biathlon Union; International Skating Union, speedskatingresults.com; speedskatingstats.com; National Hockey League; zoegillings.com; Montana State University-Bozeman; staff reports.
Published: Feb. 13, 2014.
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