Short Track Speed Skating to: Long Track
Short track speed skating takes place on a 111.12 m oval track on a rink measuring 30m x 60m. Because the corners are tight and it can be difficult for skaters to maintain control, the boards must be covered by protective mats of polyurethane foam at least 20cm thick with a minimum height of 1 m. The mats are covered with a water-resistant and cut-resistant material and they must be attached to the boards as well as to each other. Facilities dedicated solely to short track speed skating often use a self standing mat system that does not require boards which provides additional safety for athletes crashing at high speeds.
Technique and Strategy
Short track speed skaters use many of the same strategies and tactics as track racers (e.g. running or cycling). Well- conditioned skaters may elect to lead from the gun hoping to wear out the competition. Others may choose to conserve energy for a finishing sprint. And some may throw in several sprints during a race in hopes of causing confusion in the pack. Whatever the strategy, a basic tactic for every skater is to be no worse than second or third with four or five laps to go. This brings plenty of passing as skaters seek to improve their positions in the pack. Passing requires instant acceleration, agility, good balance and nerves of steel.
Because the corners of the short track oval are tight, the speed skate has been modified to maintain high speed and control in the turns. The boot is made of fibreglass molded to the shape of the foot; and the blade, while similar to the length used in long track, has more rocker and is offset to the left so the skater can lean lower and push more effectively in the corners without hitting the side of the boot on the ice. The blades are rounded at each end. Every skater wears safety gear which includes a hard shell helmet fastened under the chin, cut-resistant gloves, knee pads, neck protector (with bib) and shin guards. The skin suits are similar to those used in long track, but without the aerodynamic hood. Recent modifications in the equipment rules require a cut-proof material, often kevlar, to be used in the composition of the short track skin suit to enhance safety and reduce injuries.
In World Championship competition, men and women skate four distances: 500, 1000, 1500 and 3000mand relay races over 3000m for women and 5000m for men. The competition lasts three days. The events are skated in the following order: 1500, 500, 1000 and 3000m. Instead of racing in pairs as in long track, short track skaters mass start with four to eight skaters on the starting line. Positions are drawn by lot and the competition pits skater against skater. Strategies and tactics are very important in a race. Races are often won by the smartest rather than the fastest skater. In international competitions, skaters must finish among the top two in their heats, quarterfinals and semifinals to qualify for the 500 m, 1000m and 1500m finals. Only the skaters who accumulate points in previous finals are eligible for the 3000m final. First place receives 34 points; second place, 21 points; third place, 13 points; fourth place, 8 points, fifth place, 5 points, sixth place, 3 points, seventh place, 2 points, and eighth place, 1 point. The winner of the World Short Track Speed Skating title is the skater with the highest number of final points when the championship ends. The World Cup circuit uses only the 500m, 1000m, 1500m and relay races to determine a Champion for each distance over the course of the season. Each individual distance is raced 8 times, with the top 6 results for each athlete counting toward the final classification.