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Everything You Need to Know About Speedskating

 1994 Golds
 Critical Moment
 How It Works
 U.S. Outlook
 Others to Watch
 Looking Back at Lillehammer

 Guide to Short-Track Speedskating

Venues: The long-track speedskating venue is located in the Asahi and Maejima districts of Nagano city. It is nicknamed the "M-Wave" because of the design of its roof, which looks like a giant "M" against the backdrop of the Japanese Alps. The river Chikuma flows nearby.

1994 Golds: Men: Aleksandr Golubev, Russia (500m); Dan Jansen, United States (1000m); Johann Olav Koss, Norway (1500m); Johann Olav Koss, Norway (5000m); Johann Olav Koss, Norway. Women: Bonnie Blair, United States (500m); Bonnie Blair, United States (1000m); Emese Hunyady, Austria (1,500m); Svetlana Bazhanova, Russia (3000m); Claudia Pechstein, Germany (5000m).

speed skater
Critical Moment: As they speed around the double track, centrifugal force pushes the skaters outward. To make the skating conditions and length the same for all competitors, skaters are required to race twice: once in the inner lane, and once in the outer lane.

How It Works: Speedskating is the fastest an individual can move under his own power, with speeds reaching as much as 40 miles per hour. In speedskating, the competitors skate against the clock, although they race in pairs, and use long, graceful and powerful strides around a 400-meter double track. They are required to change lanes in the back straightaway of each lap. The skater on the outside is considered to have the right of way.

Expect to see faster times than usual this year, and quite possibly a number of Olympic and world records. Already this season there have been 10 world records set because of the slapskate, a small but expensive mechanical device that has upended the sport and seems certain to monopolize the feet of those on the medal stands in Nagano. The device, a bolt-and-hinge mechanism that allows a skate blade to disconnect briefly from a skater's boot thereby prolonging the blade's contact with the ice and increasing the skater's pushing capacity, showed up in world-class
Slap Skates
Photo Courtesy of Easton Sports
speedskating last fall on the feet of women from the Netherlands and quickly caught on among top males. As the blade comes back in contact with the heel of the boot, it makes a clacking sound, a distinct departure from the whispering brush of traditional skates.

"Instead of just having the toe part of your skate working on the ice, you have the whole blade to work with," says KC Boutiette of the U.S. team. "It means your motion is more economical and you go faster."

In order to profit as much as possible from each` stride, skaters crouch so that their stomachs and thighs are almost touching. In addition, they wear special skintight, hooded suits, which cover the skater from head to toe in one piece, to minimize wind resistance.

History: Skates probably were developed about 3,000 years ago in Scandinavia, and early skates were made of polished bone, wood and then metal. In the Netherlands, skating served as a way to travel over the canals in winter, and iron-bladed skates were recorded there as early as 1250.

Holland is considered the birthplace of modern speed skating, and the Dutch skating association is the forerunner of the International Skating Union (ISU).

By the 18th century, the popularity of speedskating had spread across northern Europe. The first known speedskating club was the Skating Club of Edinburgh, in Scotland, and the first speedskating competition is thought to be a 15-mile race held in England in 1763. Shortly thereafter, competitions sprang up across northern Europe, with the skaters, mostly made up of laborers, being judged by the aristocrats, who themselves were partial to the sport of figure skating.

In the United States, the first speedskating club was started in Philadelphia in 1849. The sport was adopted in New York and Washington shortly thereafter. In 1850, E.W. Bushnell of Philadelphia made the first all-steel skate, which did not require frequent sharpening, revolutionizing the sport.

The first world championship was held in the Netherlands in 1889, and brought together the Dutch, Russian, American and English champions. Long-track speedskating, known in current skating circles as "speed" to distinguish it from short track, has been a part of the Olympic program since the first Winter Games in Chamonix Mont-Blanc in 1924. Originally only men participated, but women's events were included in the 1960 Squaw Valley Games.

Charles Jewtraw
KRT Photo
Speedskater Charles Jewtraw (pictured) of Lake Placid, N.Y., won the first gold medal for the United States in the Winter Olympics on Jan. 26, 1924, taking the gold in the 500. Known for his explosive first 100 yards, Jewtraw's best 100 yards was 9.4 seconds, still a good time by today's standards.

Speedskating has produced more U.S. Olympic medals than any other sport, including the five golds won by Eric Heiden at the 1980 Games, and the six won by Bonnie Blair, who has won more than Olympic medals than any other American woman.

EventDateTime (ET)
Men's 5000 Sunday, Feb. 8 1 a.m.
Men's 500m (prelim) Monday, Feb. 9 2:30 a.m.
Men's 500m (final) Tuesday, Feb. 10 2:30 a.m.
Women's 3000 Wednesday, Feb. 11 1 a.m.
Men's 1500 Thursday, Feb. 12 1 a.m.
Women's 500m (prelim) Friday, Feb. 13 2:30 a.m.
Women's 500m (final) Saturday, Feb. 14 2:30 a.m.
Men's 1000m Sunday, Feb. 15 1 a.m.
Women's 1500m Monday, Feb. 16 1 a.m.
Men's 10,000m Tuesday, Feb. 17 1 a.m.
Women's 1000m Thursday, Feb. 19 1 a.m.
Women's 5000m Friday, Feb. 20 1 a.m.

U.S. Outlook: For the first time since 1984, the U.S. men's team is without Dan Jansen, who retired after the 1994 Games. But with KC Boutiette and Casey FitzRandolph, the American men do have a shot at some medals.

Boutiette was second in the 1,500 meters at the 1997 World Championships, and he recently bettered the American record in the 5,000 meters.

FitzRandolph, who excels in the sprints, recently broke the American record in the 1,000 meters. He won six medals in 1996-97 World Cup competition.

For the women, Chris Witty is coming off a tremendous World Cup season in which she claimed nine medals and is heating up as the Nagano Games approach. On Nov. 23, Witty set a world record in the 1,000 meters. She also is making progress at 1,500 meters, a distance at which she hasn't competed since 1996.

Witty is joined on the U.S. team by Kirstin Holum (two 1996-97 World Cup medals) and Becky Sundstrom (one). Holum, the daughter of four-time U.S. Olympic medalist Dianne Holum, is the American record holder in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters.

Others to Watch: With Jansen and Norway's Johann Olav Koss retired, the strongest competitors in the men's long-track competition appear to be three Japanese sprinters — Hioyasu Shimizu in the 500 and Yasunori Miyabe and Manabu Horii in the 1,000. Also contending in the sprints will be Jan Bos of the Netherlands, while returning Olympians Rintje Titsma and Ids Postma will contend at the longer distances.

The biggest names in women's long-track skating used to be Blair and China's Ye Qiaobo. But they've both retired, leaving the stage to Germany's Gunda Niemann, who did well at both Albertville and Lillehammer but was overshadowed by Blair.

Now Niemann is the star, and she is expected to dominate in the longer distances — 3,000 and 5,000 meters. Already this season she has set a new world record at 3000 meters. Teammate Claudia Pechstein, who won the 5,000-meter gold at Lillehammer, will push Niemann, as will Tonny de Jong of the Netherlands and Svetlana Bazhanova of Russia. The shorter events will feature Ye Qiaobo's successor on the Chinese team, Xue Ruihong.

Looking Back at Lillehammer: Blair won two gold medals, bringing her Olympic total to five, the most for an American athlete in the history of the Winter Olympics. Norwegian Johann Olav Koss thrilled the home crowd with three gold medals in the 1,500m, 5,000m and the 10,000m, all in world-record time. But it was Jansen who had the Games' most emotional moment, overcoming six years of frustration to win gold in the 1,000 meters. Earlier, Jansen slipped on the last turn in the 500m and finished eighth.

Gold Medalists:

Men | Women

Men (500 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1924 Charles Jewtraw, United States 44.0
1928 Clas Thunberg, Finland 43.4
(Tie) Bernt Evensen, Norway 43.4
1932 John Shea, United States 43.4
1936 Ivar Ballangrud, Norway 43.4
1948 Finn Helgesen, Norway 43.1
1952 Kenneth Henry, United States 43.2
1956 Yevgeny Grishin, USSR 40.2
1960 Yevgeny Grishin, USSR 40.2
1964 Terry McDermott, United States 40.1
1968 Erhard Keller, West Germany 40.3
1972 Erhard Keller, West Germany 39.44
1976 Yevgeny Kulikov, USSR 39.17
1980 Eric Heiden, United States 38.03
1984 Sergei Fokichev, USSR 38.19
1988 Uwe-Jens Mey, East Germany 36.45
1992 Uwe-Jens Mey, East Germany 37.14
1994 Aleksandr Golubev, Russia 36.33
Men (1,000 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1976 Peter Mueller, United States 1:19.32
1980 Eric Heieden, United States 1:15.18
1984 Gaetan Boucher, Canada 1:15.80
1988 Nikolai Gulyaev, USSR 1:13.03
1992 Olaf Zinke, Germany 1:14.85
1994Dan Jansen, United States 1:12.43
Men (1,500 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1924 Clas Thunberg, Finland 2:20.8
1928 Clas Thunberg, Finland 2:21.1
1932 John Shea, United States 2:57.5
1936 Charles Mathisen, Norway 2:19.2
1948 Sverre Farstad, Norway 2:17.6
1952 Hjalmar Andersen, Norway 2:20.4
1956 Yevgeny Grishin, USSR 2:08.6
(Tie) Yuri Mikhailov, USSR 2:08.6
1960 Roald Aas, Norway 2:10.4
(Tie) Yevgeny Grishin, USSR 2:10.4
1964 Ants Anston, USSR 2:10.3
1968 Cornelis Verkerk, Netherlands 2:03.4>
1972 Ard Schenk, Netherlands 2:02.96
1976 Jan Egil Storholt, Norway 1:59.38
1980 Eric Heiden, United States 1:55.44
1984 Gaetan Boucher, Canada 1:58.36
1988 Andre Hoffman, East Germany 1:52.06
1992 Johann Olav Koss, Norway 1:54.81
1994 Johann Olav Koss, Norway 1:51.29
Men (5,000 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1924 Clas Thunberg, Finland 8:39.0
1928 Ivar Ballangrud, Norway 8:50.5
1932 Irving Jaffee, United States 9:40.8
1936 Ivar Ballangrud, Norway 8:19.6
1948 Reidar Liaklev, Norway 8:29.4
1952 Hjalmar Andersen, Norway 8:10.6
1956 Boris Shilkov, USSR 7:48.7
1960 Viktor Kosichkin, USSR 7:51.3
1964 Knut Johannesen, Norway 7:38.4
1968 Fred Anton Maier, Norway 7:22.4
1972 Ard Schenk, Netherlands 7:23.61
1976 Sten Stensen, Norway 7:24.48
1980 Eric Heiden, United States 7:02.29
1984 Sven Tomas Gustafson, Sweden 7:12.28
1988 Tomas Gustafson, Sweden 6:44.63
1992 Geir Karlstad, Norway 6:59.97
1994 Johann Olav Koss, Norway 6:34.96
Men (10,000 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1924 Julius Skutnabb, Finland 18:04.8
1928 Not held, thawing of ice 
1932 Irving Jaffee, United States 19:13.6
1936 Ivar Ballangrud, Norway 17:24.3
1948 Ake Seyffarth, Sweden 17:26.3
1952 Hjalmar Andersen, Norway 16:45.8
1956 Sigvard Ericsson, Sweden 16:35.9
1960 Knut Johannesen, Norway 15:46.6
1964 Jonny Nilsson, Sweden 15:50.1
1968 Johnny Hoglin, Sweden 15:23.6
1972 Ard Schenk, Netherlands 15:01.35
1976 Piet Kleine, Netherlands 14:50.59
1980 Eric Heiden, United States 14:28.13
1984 Igor Malkov, USSR 14:39.90
1988 Tomas Gustafson, Sweden 13:48.20
1992 Bart Veldkamp, Netherlands 14:12.12
1994 Johann Olav Koss, Norway 13:30.55

Women (500 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1960 Helga Haase, East Germany 45.9
1964 Lydia Skoblikova, USSR 45.0
1968 Lyudmila Titova, USSR 46.1
1972 Anne Henning, United States 43.33
1976 Sheila Young, United States 42.76
1980 Karin Enke, East Germany 41.78
1984 Christa Rothenburger, East Germany 41.02
1988 Bonnie Blair, United States 39.10
1992 Bonnie Blair, United States 40.33
1994 Bonnie Blair, United States 39.25
Women (1,000 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1960 Klara Guseva, USSR 1:34.1
1964 Lydia Skoblikova, USSR 1:33.2
1968 Carolina Geijssen, Netherlands 1:32.6
1972 Monika Pflug, West Germany 1:31.40
1976 Tatiana Averina, USSR 1:28.43
1980 Natalya Petruseva, USSR 1:24.10
1984 Karin Enke, East Germany 1:21.61
1988 Christa Rothenburger, East Germany 1:17.65
1992 Bonnie Blair, United States 1:21.90
1994 Bonnie Blair, United States 1:18.74
Women (1,500 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1960 Lydia Skoblikova, USSR 2:25.2
1964 Lydia Skoblikova, USSR 2:22.6
1968 Kaija Mustonen, Finland 2:22.4
1972 Dianne Holum, United States 2:20.85
1976 Galina Stepanskaya, USSR 2:16.58
1980 Anne Borckink, Netherlands 2:10.95
1984 Karin Enke, East Germany 2:03.42
1988 Yvonne van Gennip, Netherlands 2:00.68
1992 Jacqueline Boerner, Germany 2:05.87
1994 Emese Hunyady, Austria 2:02.19
Women (3,000 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1960 Lydia Skoblikova, USSR 5:14.3
1964 Lydia Skoblikova, USSR 5:14.9
1968 Johanna Schut, Netherlands 4:56.2
1972 Christina Baas-Kaiser, Netherlands 4:52.14
1976 Tatiana Averina, USSR 4:45.19
1980 Bjorg Eva Jensen, Norway 4:32.13
1984 Andrea Schone, East Germany 4:24.79
1988 Yvonne van Gennip, Netherlands 4:11.94
1992 Gunda Niemann, Germany 4:19.90
1994 Svetlana Bazhanova, Russia 4:17.43
Women (5,000 Meters)
Year Athlete, Country Time
1988 Yvonne van Gennip, Netherlands 7:14.13
Gunda Niemann, Germany 7:31.57
1994 Claudia Pechstein, Germany 7:14.37

Trivia: 1. Who set three world records at the 1994 Games?
2. How many gold medals did Dan Jansen win?
3. How long is a long-track speed skating oval?

© Copyright 1998

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