Q: Where will speedskating be held?
Speedskating events will take place at 8,000-seat Gangneung Oval. The ice at the arena is notoriously fast, so it won’t be surprising if a few records are broken.
Q: What speedskating events are there?
Men: 500, 1,000, 1,500, 5,000, 10,000 meters, plus mass start and team pursuit
Women: 500, 1,000, 1,500, 3,000, 5,000 meters, plus mass start and team pursuit
The individual events have only one round of races per distance (except the mass start). The athletes skate in pairs, with the higher ranked (i.e. faster) skaters going later. The fastest time, measured to the hundredth of a second, wins.
The mass start is new for PyeongChang (though a version was also held at the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.) Twenty-four skaters (the eight fastest from each of three semifinals) will line up for the final, in rows of six. No one can pass on the first lap, but it’s every skater for himself (or herself) in the final 15 circuits.
“The best way I could describe it would be NASCAR on ice,” American medal contender Joey Mantia said. “There is bumping. There is drafting. There is strategy. . . . It’s definitely more exciting to watch than standard long-track races.”
Throughout the race there are four intermediate sprints, including one at the end, and points are awarded to the top three finishers in each sprint. So the first three finishers to cross the finish line are not necessarily the gold, silver and bronze medalists, although they get points as well. The skaters with the top three point totals head to the medal stand.
In the team pursuit, there are eight teams of three skaters each (a fourth team member can be rotated in between races). The competition is a single-elimination knockout format with a quarterfinal, semifinal and finals.
In each round, two teams compete head-to-head. The clock only stops when the team’s third skater crosses the line. The quarterfinal winners advance to the semifinals (losers race for placement). The semifinal winners race for gold or silver, the losers for bronze.
Q: Are there any other rules?
There are plenty of other rules, but two of note relate to false starts and crossovers. Skaters are allowed one false start but will be disqualified after the second. A crossover is when a skater switches lanes, which is required after each lap of the individual events (except mass start).
The top skaters can reach about 35 mph, occasionally a bit faster.
Q: Who should I watch for?
The Dutch are always the favorites in speedskating. Four years ago in Sochi, they won eight of 12 golds, swept four podiums and collected 23 of 36 long track medals. They’re set for more success in PyeongChang (even Canadian medal contender Ted-Jan Bloemen is a dual citizen and Dutch native). In particular, watch for Sven Kramer to win his fourth straight Olympic medal in the 5,000 meters and attempt to turn his 10,000 silver medal from Sochi into gold.
The United States didn’t win a speedskating medal in Sochi, but PyeongChang could be a different story. For the women, Heather Bergsma and Brittany Bowe are potential medal contenders in the 1,000 and 1,500. On the men’s side, Joey Mantia should be in the mix for a mass start medal, and four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis is back for his fifth Games. America’s long-track team also includes newcomer Erin Jackson, one of the country’s first two female African American speedskaters (Maame Biney, in short-track, is the other).
Q: When is long-track speedskating contested, and how can I watch it on TV?
Events begin on the first full day of the Games, Feb. 10, and continue until Feb. 24. All events will air on NBC and NBCSN, but just two will be shown live. Here is a schedule of the finals, with television coverage in parentheses. Live telecasts are in bold. Races are also available by live-streaming or on the NBC Sports app. Daily TV listings can be found here.
Feb. 10: Women’s 3,000 meters, 6 a.m. (NBCSN, 1-5 p.m.)
Feb. 11: Men’s 5,000, 2 a.m. (NBCSN, 5-9 a.m.; NBC, 3-6 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.-2:40 a.m.)
Feb. 12: Women’s 1,500, 7:30 a.m. (NBCSN, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; NBC, 8-11:30 p.m.)
Feb. 13: Men’s 1,500, 6 a.m. (NBCSN, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; NBC, 3-5 p.m.)
Feb. 14: Women’s 1,000, 5 a.m. (NBCSN, 2:30-6:30 a.m.; NBC, 8-11:30 p.m.)
Feb. 15: Men’s 10,000, 6 a.m. (NBCSN, 9:30 a.m.-noon; NBC, 3-5 p.m.)
Feb. 16: Women’s 5,000, 6 a.m. (NBCSN, 10:45 a.m. -2 p.m.; NBC, 3-5 p.m.)
Feb. 18: Women’s 500, 6:56 a.m. (NBCSN, 11:15 a.m.-1 p.m.; NBC, 7 p.m.-midnight)
Feb. 19: Men’s 500, 6:53 a.m. (NBCSN, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; NBC, 3-5 p.m.)
Feb. 21: Women’s and men’s team pursuits, 7:52 a.m. (NBCSN, 10:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; NBC, 3-5 p.m.)
Feb. 23: Men’s 1,000, 5 a.m. (NBCSN, 5-6:30 a.m.; NBC, 8-11 p.m.)
Feb. 24: Women’s and men’s mass starts, 7:30 a.m. (NBCSN, 9:30-11 a.m.; NBC, 3-6 p.m.)