Speed Skating Rules

Speed Skating
Photo Credit: ja20775 / Bigstockphoto.com

Speed Skating is a winter racing sport where athletes compete against one another on an ice-based circuit, using skates to navigate their way around the track. There are three main variants of speed skating – Long Track Speed Skating, Short Track Speed Skating, and Marathon Speed Skating. In the Olympics, “Speed Skating” is the term used to describe the Long Track category, whereas Short Track Speed Skating is abbreviated to “Short Track”.

Speed Skating was developed at some point during the 19th Century, and whilst its precise origins are routinely debated, the first competitive events can be traced back to Norway in 1863.

Speedskating has been a part of the Winter Olympics from the very beginning with four separate men’s events held in 1924. Since 1960, a number of women’s events have been introduced, as well as Team Pursuit events in recent years.

The Netherlands have collected the most Olympic Speed Skating medals overall, with the USA and Norway also experiencing success. Eric Heiden of America and Clas Thunberg of Finland are the most individually decorated Speed Skaters at the Olympics with five gold medals each.

Object of the Game

Speed Skating is a racing sport, so the primary aim is to complete each circuit in the fastest time possible. Athletes compete in races two at a time, with a lane reserved for each. During the race, athletes reach a specific point where they swap lanes to ensure they cover the same amount of distance as one another overall. If a race is neck and neck and both competitors meet on a corner, the athlete occupying the inner lane must offer right of way to the rival on the outside. The athlete that reaches the finish line first is declared the winner.

Players & Equipment

In a Speed Skating race, players ordinarily race around the circuit two at a time. Every participant is required to wear specific equipment, including the following.


Athletes require specially made suits that offer protection on the ice but also enable them to skate around the track at high speeds. For low air resistance, these suits are usually skin-tight in design and are tailored to each individual athlete’s specific body shape. They also contain Kevlar for added protection.


Boots are tailor made for professional Speed Skaters, with the blades at the base varying in length from 14 to 18 inches. These blades are also designed with a curve in order to assist turning when racing around the circuit.


Athletes also wear helmets, neck guards, goggles, and ankle shields during racing as well as their suits, which offer added layers of protection in the event of a fall.

The specific equipment used in Long Track and Short Track differs slightly, with most of the main protective items not required in Long Track.


In order to improve their chances of reaching the finish line first, Speed Skaters must adopt a particular set of techniques. These include:


Athletes must keep a low centre of gravity by bending their knees in order to skate at the highest possible speeds and take corners effectively. The lower to the ground, the better.


Speed Skaters must take the circuit into account whenever they are competing. As a rule, the skater on the inner lane will have the upper-hand, so athletes must continue to make ground when they’re in the outer lane and recognise how to position themselves correctly.


The winner of a Speed Skating race is the athlete that reaches the finish line first. There are often no heats or finals in Speed Skating like there are in other racing sports.

Rules of Speed Skating

  • In Olympic Speed Skating, races are participated on a 400-meter oval track. In Short Track, they are contested on a 111-meter circuit.
  • Races begin from a standing start, signalled by firing a gun. If an athlete moves too soon, this is known as a “false start” and they are given a warning. More than one false start places an athlete at serious risk of being disqualified.
  • If two athletes meet on a corner, the racer in the inner lane must give right of way to the rival on the outer lane. Failing to oblige to this regulation or impeding an opponent in any way will result in disqualification.
  • Depending on the nature of the race, an athlete that falls down may have the option to run the race again.
  • Skaters are not permitted to move lanes when approaching the finish line.
  • In certain races, a skater may call a “relay player”, who is essentially a replacement. Before a relay player can be called, the athlete who began the race must have completed a minimum of one lap.