Short track made its official Olympic debut at the 1992 Winter Games, after having been a demonstration
sport in 1988. It is contested in indoor rinks on a 111 overall meter track -- an international size hockey
rink (30 x 60 meters).
Short track races are fast and thrilling. A pack of four to six skaters race against each other, rather than the
clock. Times are kept in short track racing only for the purpose of establishing local, national and world
records. Spectators relish the compressed action of a fast-moving pack on a small track, anticipating spills
and occasional contact between competitors.
The ability to read a race and its competition is vital to getting positioned for the win. A typical strategy
might involve one competitor taking the lead quickly and setting a fast pace in an effort to "burn out" the
other skaters. Or a slow pace is set with skaters jockeying for position in anticipation of a sprint for the
finish line during the last three or four laps.
Usually, competitors skate a series of heats or elimination rounds for the individual events. Heats have up
to six skaters, with the top two finishers from each heat advancing to the next round.
Each skater is allowed one false start and is disqualified after the second. The start is crucial to the skater,
especially in the shorter distances, since the start is not staggered and a skater can move to the inside
immediately. Skaters must skate outside the blocks during the entire race, although a finger can skim the
surface of the ice inside the blocks as long as the skater rounds the blocks.
Passing must be done cleanly and without body contact. Passing is tricky, and skaters take advantage of
key areas to pass. If the lead skater strays too far from the track markers, he or she can be passed on the
inside by an alert competitor.
If the track is skated tightly by the pack, passing must then be done on the outside. The rules on passing
other skaters are strict. One infraction and a skater is out. The lead skater has the right of way and the
passing skater must assume responsibility for avoiding body contact. The most frequent passing occurs
when a skater passes on the inside near the first or second block of the corner.
Intentionally pushing, obstructing or colliding with another racer calls for the offender's disqualification
and a chance for advancement to the next round by the victim of the offense. Improperly crossing the
course ("cross-tracking") is also prohibited, as is kicking your skate across the finish line. A bell warns the
skaters when they are one lap from the finish.
Given the frequent contact between skaters in short track racing, falls are not uncommon. Although a
competitor is not disqualified for a fall, to come from behind and win after a fall in any individual event is
nearly impossible. Skaters may still do well in the final classification of the competition by recording
strong finishes in the other individual events.
Scoring -- U.S. and World Championships
Winners are determined by order of finish, not by time.
Skaters can earn points according to their order of finish: five points for first place, three for second, two for third and one for fourth. Points earned in all rounds leading up to the final are called performance points. Points earned in final competition are called final points, and have preference over performance points. The overall winner of an event is the skater with the greatest number of final points. If a skater qualifies for a final but does not score points, he or she will be ranked ahead of any skater not competing in a final. This instance is designated on the result sheet by zero final points next to the skater's name. This system is not used in Olympic competition.
The 500 meter and 1000 meter events are held at the Olympic Games, with medals awarded for each. The heats usually have four skaters, with two skaters from each heat advancing to the next round. The semifinal and finals also usually have four competitors in each race.
For the women's 3000 meter relay, eight pre-qualified teams compete, including the host country. Two heats are skated with the top two finishers from each advancing to the final.
For the men's 5000 meter relay, eight pre-qualified teams compete, including the host country. Two heats are skated with the top two finishers from each advancing to the final.
Each team has four skaters on the ice and each must skate at least one exchange. The relay has a mass start with each team's first skater. Each team determines how many laps its skaters will skate. The skaters can exchange as often as decided by their team, provided the exchange to the last skater is started prior to the last two full laps. Normally teams skate one, one and a half or two laps per turn.
Relay exchanges are performed at high speeds and are usually done with a firm push. The relay exchange can be done in any area of the track; however, the last exchange must start prior to the center line (finish line) with two laps remaining in a race. A gun shot warns the skaters that the last exchange is coming up.
As an Olympic event for men since 1924, and women since 1960, long track speedskating features two skaters competing on a 400-meter track.
Skaters compete in separate lanes and all events must be run in a counterclockwise direction. Each lane is divided by snow or markers and the inside lane is shorter than the outside lane. In order for each racer to skate the same distance, they must change lanes during each lap at the crossover point in the backstretch. The skater crossing the outer lane to the inner lane has the right of way, since he would have opened a large lead to arrive at the cross-over earlier than his opponent in the shorter inner curve.
Any collision with or obstruction of an opponent during the cross-over can result in a disqualification of the offender and a chance to re-skate by the injured party. When entering a curve, the skater may not cross the lane markers, though referees usually permit the skater to nick the lane markers with his or her left foot.
Skaters compete in several heats called pairs. Winning the pair does not mean winning the event. The winner of the event is the fastest competitor of the day. Skaters prefer to skate in the fastest pair possible, thus improving their chances for a faster time.
Pairs and lane assignments are determined by a drawing conducted before the event. Names are drawn two at a time from each seeding pool, forming a pair. Each pair skates in the order in which it was drawn.
Skaters start either side-by-side or staggered, depending on the distance of the race. The skater starting in the inner track wears a white armband; the skater starting in the outer lane wears a red one. When the starter orders "go to the start," both skaters move to area between the pre-starting line and the starting line. At the word "ready", both skaters assume their exact starting positions, holding them until the starter fires the gun. Each skater is allowed one warning for a false start before disqualification. Only the first skater to break from the start position before the gun will be considered at fault. If one skater is disqualified for a false start, the remaining skater of the pair skates alone.
A skater has completed the distance when he or she has touched or reached the finish line with his or her skates, as recorded by an electric eye beam. The winner for each event is the skater with the lowest time, measured to 1/100th of a second, after all the pairs have raced. If two skaters tie, they shall be judged as tied. No deciding heats or tie-breakers are allowed.
A skater can be disqualified for:
Failure to appear promptly at the start.
Two false starts.
Crossing lane markers while in the curves. Subject to ruling from the judge.
Failure to change lanes in the crossing area
Interfering with an opponent when changing lanes. Subject to ruling from the judges.
Skaters who fall during the course of a race are allowed to get up and continue. For distances less than 10,000 or 5000 meters, there is generally no chance of making up lost time. If a skater falls before the finish line, the time is taken when the skater's skate crosses the finish line, even if the skater is out of his or her lane.
Scores in long track are tabulated using samalog points. Keeping in mind that time equals points, samalog scoring is based on time from the 500 m event. Scores are computed by the following formula:
500 m time = points
1000 m time divided by 2 = points
1500 m time divided by 3 = points
3000 m time divided by 6 = points
5000 m time divided by 10 = points
10,000 m time divided by 20 = points