Speed Skating Information

Insider Info

dot"I enjoy trying to reach my full potential in something as healthy as sports. I love to compete, and being an athlete beats having a 9-to-5 job!" says speed skater Casey FitzRandolph.

Speed skating is a competitive sport where the goal is to achieve the fastest possible speed on ice. People of all ages and skill levels can participate. Speed skaters use specially designed skates and aerodynamic skin suits to maximize their potential.

dotThey are also very athletic individuals. They need powerful muscles for strength, power and endurance.

dotFACT: Speed skating is the world's fastest self-propelled sport. That's according to the Amateur Speed Skating Union of the United States.

dotNo one knows for sure exactly when or where speed skating originated. It's believed Vikings in Europe first developed skating itself as kind of an extension to skiing. Historical records show the first metal blade attached to a boot appeared in Holland in 1400.

Speed skating then became very popular in Holland and other parts of Europe. It soon developed into the current style we see today. Speed skating is now a very popular Olympic sport.

dotAt one time, speed skating took place outdoors on frozen ponds and lakes. But these days, it takes place indoors in arenas and other specially designed ovals. The environment inside is usually warm and friendly, though competitors are often intense and focused on the task at hand.

dotIt's difficult to know exactly how many people are actively involved in the sport. This is because not all speed skaters compete, and therefore don't always register as members of associations or clubs.

"As far as numbers of people involved in speed skating, that is really a nebulous number," says Shirley Yates. She is the national secretary for the Amateur Speed Skating Union.

"We have about 1,500 registered competitors, another 500 officials and non-competitors, and probably 500 to 1,000 who never register but who feel they are involved."

Jack Jayner is in the Speed Skating Canada Hall of Fame. "My impression is Canadian registrations are at 5,500; United States [registrations] are at 2,500," he says. "Unregistered Canadians skating recreationally: a wild guess of 3,000."

dotThere are two main styles in speed skating: long track and short track. Long track is skated on a 400-meter oval. Two skaters compete for time in distances between 500 and 10,000 meters.

Short track is skated on Olympic-size hockey rinks. Four to six skaters compete head to head, and whoever crosses the finish line first wins! Short track skaters can achieve speeds of 25 miles per hour.

dotThe only real trend in speed skating is that skaters continue to find ways to go faster and faster. Equipment, particularly the skates, continues to evolve.

"All the skaters on the international circuit are on 'clap' skates now," says FitzRandolph.

"Clap skates are skates that have a blade that detaches from the heal of the boot when you extend your toe at the end of each push. There is a spring in the front that brings the blade back under the boot when you lift your skate off the ice after the end of the push. This makes the clapping noise that the skate is named after."

dotSpeed skating isn't the most expensive sport to get into, but costs can add up quickly. The skates cost the most, ranging anywhere from $200 to $1,000 -- and that's just for the boots! The blades will cost you an extra $100 to $300.

Of course, if you want to look the part, you'll have to spend a few bucks on a spiffy Spandex skin suit. They cost anywhere between $50 and $100. You'll also need to spend another $100 or so on a helmet, gloves, shin pads and knee pads.

dotAnother expense you need to consider is the cost of joining a club. At some clubs, you can pay as you go for ice time, $5 or $10 a session. Annual memberships can cost a few hundred dollars.

dotAs you might imagine, speed skating is a very rigorous sport that requires substantial athletic ability. Speed skaters constantly work out to gain strength and increase their stamina. In short, you need to be an all around good athlete to be able to compete. The only obvious required skill is the ability to skate. The rest is all hard work and dedication.

dotAt first, it may not seem possible, but people with physical challenges can and do participate in speed skating. It just depends on the challenge.

"Special Olympians regularly participate in the sport. I've seen one successfully race in a non-S.O. category. I've skated with, and lost races to, a hearing-impaired skater," says Jayner. "I skated recreationally with an elderly gent who had a leg prosthesis!"

dotAs with most competitive sports, injuries are not uncommon. Speed skaters can often strain their hips and lower backs. Groin pulls are also common.

The best way to avoid these types of injuries is to stretch before you skate. Other injuries can be more serious. Sharp skates can cut!

As well, bones can break when falling on hard ice at high speeds. Proper padding equipment goes a long way towards preventing such injuries. A helmet is essential.

dotSpeed skating is an amateur sport and an Olympic sport. There are no professional speed skaters. That means speed skaters do not get paid to skate. Olympians and others on national teams may be sponsored, but no one is directly paid as a speed skater.

There are however, ways to become gainfully employed in the speed skating environment. Mostly, paid positions would be found in coaching and officiating areas.

Getting Started

dotProbably the best way to get started speed skating is to join a local club. Some clubs will have skates and other equipment you can rent or try out.

There are speed skating clubs throughout the U.S. and Canada. Just look in the phone book, or ask for information at a local arena. If there aren't any clubs in your area, you may have to travel.

"Anyone interested in getting into speed skating should contact a club in their community. They should be able to help you find the proper equipment, assess your skill level, and basically get you started," says speed skater Christina Homer.

dotAs far as instruction is concerned, serious-minded beginners can find speed skating coaches through local clubs. You can also check at the library for instructional videos.


U.S. Speedskating



Fitness and Speed Skating Times Online


International Skating Union
See what speed skaters are doing around the world

The International Olympic Committee
The official page