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Gateway to the Summer Games - Spotlight Sports Griffin Publishing Group

Speed Skating
Although archeologists in Scandinavia have relics that demonstrate primitive people glided over the ice using skates fashioned from animal bone and straps of leather, it was in the Netherlands that skating became a mode of transportation and national passion. Using the frozen canals for the track, speed skating became a winter past time and quickly gained in popularity across Europe. The first known skating competition is thought to have been a 15-meter race and took place in England on February 4, 1763.

Speed skating has been part of the Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924. At first, only men raced, but in 1960, four women's speed skating events were held at the Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley. The women's 5000 meter event was added to the Olympic program in Calgary in 1988, completing the 10 events that will be currently raced in Salt Lake City: 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m. Each race (for both men and women) has a slightly different rule for winning. The 2002 Speed Skating events will be held in the 6,000 seat Utah Olympic Oval which is the world's highest-altitude indoor skating oval

Interesting Facts
  • The International Skating Union (ISU) was founded in 1892 in Scheveningen, Netherlands, and has governed speed skating since its inception.
  • Speed skating giant, Eric Heiden (Madison, Wisconsin) produced the greatest single feat in Winter Olympic history when he won all five events at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.
  • The only other person besides Heiden to sweep available speed skating medals was Lydia Skoblikova of the Soviet Union. Not only did she win double golds at Squaw Valley, she returned to Innsbruck in 1964 to win gold medals in the 500m, 1,000m, 1,500m and 3,000m events.
  • In the winter of 1997, klap skates were introduced. These skates featured a spring-loaded front hinge, which allowed skaters to raise their heels off the blade. The skate got its name from the clapping sound made when the blade reconnects with the metal base.
  • In 1960, Squaw Valley Winter Olympics, women’s speed skating events were added to the Olympic event roster.
To Learn More About Speed Skating
Other Winter Olympic Sports

Alpine Skiing


Figure Skating

Ice Hockey


Ski Jumping

Speed Skating


General Sports Links
Olympians will compete in dozens of sports this winter. Even though Gateway to the Winter Games can't feature them all, you can learn about each and every one by visiting the sites listed below.

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