Imagine yourself tearing across a sheet of ice at 50 km/hour on long blades only a millimetre thick. A sharp curve looms ahead. Into that turn, you know the other skaters will attempt to cut you off and leave you behind in a cloud of ice shards.
If you crave an extreme sport with speed and lots of strategy, then welcome to the thrill and spectacle that is short track speed skating. Short track speed skating is a different sport from long track speed skating. Long track skaters race the clock. In short track, four to six skaters race each other to the finish line, jockeying for position while maintaining speed and balance.
Short track is pack-style so the ice gets crowded. The possibility of colliding with other skaters looms at every turn. Short track skaters must wear hard-shelled helmets, cut resistant clothing, gloves, neck guards, knee and shin pads to protect themselves from the spills.
The short track speed skating events are constructed in heats where skaters are eliminated and the heat winner(s) are advanced to the next round, eventually leaving a small handful of skaters who compete in the finals.
Short track has a worldwide following. Many countries have short track teams and the sport is very popular in China, Korea and Canada. After the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, where Steven Bradbury won a Gold medal in the 1000m, interest and participation in this fantastic sport has shown a steady increase in Australia.
SPEED SKATING – LONG TRACK
The traditional form of speed skating, with organised races beginning in the 19th century. Normally skaters race against the clock, with skaters having their own lane around a 400m track, although pack style racing and pursuits have now been added to the long track competition schedule. Skaters can reach up to speeds of 70km/hr.