During week one of the 2019 Canada Winter Games, speed skating events hit the ice at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre and Great Chief Park. (Photo contributed by 2019 CANADA WINTER GAMES)

2019 Canada Winter Games: Spotlight on short track speed skating

A Winter Games staple, speed skating is one of the 19 Official Sports competed at the 2019 Canada Winter Games during the first week of the Games. Marianne St-Gelais, Cindy Klassen, Charles Hamelin and Catriona Le May Doan (also a member of the 2019 Games Board) are some of the Canada Games speed skating alumni who went on to have international and Olympic success in the sport.

Featuring two distinct disciplines – short and long track – agility, strategy and strength are essential factors in speed skating where athletes are able to reach speeds up to 50 km per hour. An exciting sport to watch, athletes even take sharp turns at these top speeds.

Short track speed skating takes place on a 111m oval, which is usually the size of an ice hockey rink. Long track speed skating athletes compete on a 400m oval track. Since a short track oval is smaller than a long track oval, it creates turns that are sharper. Short track racers also have to be a little more strategic as they race in packs, competing and pushing for top position – picture roller derby on ice. Long track racers are to remain in their own lanes during the duration of the race, other than during crossovers that occur every lap to equalize distance.

Because of this difference in tracks, there are variations in the skates used between the disciplines. Short track blades are slightly wider than long track blades so that they can withstand the stress of turning on sharper corners. The blades are also bent which makes it easier for the skaters to turn. The bend of the blades allows the skater to lean into the turns without hitting the side of their boot on the ice. If anything other than the blade touches the ice it could cause the skater to lose balance.

The blades on long track skates are straighter than short track blades. The blade also detaches at the heel and there are springs under the ball of the foot which serves to retract the blade back into its original position. This allows for a more natural range of motion for the skater. The actual boot of a long track skate is made of softer, leather material compared to the hard, composite material of a short track boot. The boot also does not sit as high on the ankle as a short track skate.

At the 2019 Games, short track speed skaters compete in 500m, 1000m, 1500m and 3000m races. In addition to those lengths of races, long track skaters also compete in 5,000m races. Before a race can start, skaters must be motionless for one to one and a half seconds at the start line.

Even though organized ice skating races were first developed in the 19th century, ice skating goes back a lot further. The roots of ice skating date back over a millennium. Long track speed skating has been a part of the Canada Games since its inaugural event in 1967. Short track speed skating later joined the roster in the 1983 Canada Winter Games.

Great Chief Park hosts the long track speed skating events in Week 1 of the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Short track speed skating hits the ice at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, which recently opened late last month.

If you have a need for speed, come watch the young speed skating athletes of Canada compete in the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

To learn more about the sports of the 2019 Games, please visit https://canadagames.ca/2019/sports.

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