Speed ​​skating

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Speed ​​skating is a sporting discipline that takes place on ice and skates .

Competitive situation on the change straight


Excavations from the Stone Age (around 2000 B.C.E.) show that even then a type of ice skate was used for winter movement. These consisted of split forearm and metacarpal bones from running animals and were tied under the shoes with straps. Sports comparisons from this time have not survived. In Holland around 1250 iron rails were used for fun walking on the ice. The first ice skating club was founded in Edinburgh in 1742 . Competitions in women's ice skating with wooden ice skates and embedded metal rails can be traced back to around 1750. 1763 took place in the Fens of England Cambridgeshire held a first documented competition. Participants were two runners from the English nobility . The winner received a prize of ten guineas . The running distance should have been 15 miles (approx. 24 kilometers), the running time of the winner 46 minutes.

In 1861 the first German ice skating club was founded in Frankfurt am Main ; In 1863 there were also speed skating competitions in Norway.

The first international high-speed comparison was made in Hamburg in 1885 ; the first unofficial world championships (World Championships; only for men) took place in Amsterdam in 1889, since 1893 these have been officially held by the International Ice Skating Union (ISU; based in Lausanne ), founded in 1882 . In 1936 there was the first world championship for women, held in Stockholm.

In 1893 the first European championships were held in Berlin. Since then, these have taken place annually (with interruptions during the two world wars in the 20th century); until 1980 exclusively for male participants.

Speed ​​skating for men has been on the Olympic program since 1924 , and the women's competition was added in 1960. Up to the 1980s, all competitions took place on open ice rinks (until around 1960 only on natural ice , then also artificially iced running surfaces), which meant that there was a high degree of weather dependency. In 1984 the ISU introduced World Cup series (WC) for speed skating, that is between 5 and 10 international races per season in which points and prizes are awarded for good placements. World Cup winners are determined in the individual disciplines and as overall winners and receive bonuses (e.g. in the 2002/03 season 14,000  US $ on each route), the first-placed overall winner was even named with 400,000 US $.

There have only been world champions in the individual distances since 1996, previously only unofficially when completing all sections of the sprint or all-round competition. In Germany, the German Speed ​​Skating Association (DESG) acts as an umbrella organization. According to information on the ISU website, ice skating associations from 61 countries were active nationally in 2005.

The sports associations of the federal states also pay their participants bonuses for important events; z. B. the Olympic champion Enrico Fabris received a total of 300,000 euros for 2 gold and 1 bronze medal.

Basic rule

In a speed skating competition, as in athletics running competitions, the fastest runner on a standard route is determined. The electronic timing is triggered when the first tip of the skate breaks the light barrier. In the event of a fall before the finish line, the time is taken with the hand stop watch when the skate tips pass the finish line.

Start compilations

Run in pairs

On the running tracks with the 400-meter ovals adopted from athletics, a trouble-free run is only possible with a few runners due to the extensive body movements during ice skating. The mode of running in pairs on a two-lane system with several passes has therefore developed. The corresponding rule for this was drawn up by the International Ice Skating Association (IEV), the forerunner of the ISU , in 1892.

The athletes are assigned a drawn lane for the start and cross lanes in each lap on the alternating straight (approx. 100 m). This compensates for the different lengths of the inner and outer lanes after every 2 laps. “ Target photo decisions” are not provided, the final decision on the placement is usually made with the last run by comparing the measured running times.

Since the paired runs do not allow a direct comparison of all participants in comparison to the running competitions in athletics , the personal trainers on the edge of the outer lane show their protégés the last lap time on folding boards to the nearest tenth of a second, the first digit becomes the full second mostly omitted because largely unchangeable.

Quartet start

In order to save time at larger events, so-called quartet starts were introduced with running distances of 1500 meters or more from the 2002 season. The announcement was made on June 17, 2002 at the ISU Congress in Kyoto. There are (up to) four runners at the same time in two pairs on the track with a distance of exactly half a lap between the starting pairs. Both pairs start at the same time, with the starting points offset by half a lap, or the second pair receives the start signal from the same starting line when the first pair has covered about half a lap.

Mass start

With the starting line-up in staggered rows, the previously more powerful runners will be given the cheaper starting places. Bonus sprints can yield rating points that you need to win. Competitors who are lapped by the leading runner are eliminated from the ongoing competition.

Competition courses

Fixed track lengths are run in the competition. The usual individual routes are 100, 500, 1000, 1500, 3000, 5000 and 10,000 meters, with other national and junior competitions as well. In the junior area, for example, there are routes with 100, 200, 300, 500 and 700 meters.

Sprint all-round competitions are carried out over the twice run distances of 500 and 1000 meters, four-way competitions are held over the distances of 500, 1000, 1500 and 3000 meters ("small four-way fight" for women), 500, 1500, 3000 and 5000 meters (" Small Vierkampf "for men and" Großer Vierkampf "for women) and 500, 1500, 5000 and 10,000 meters (" Großer Vierkampf "for men).

From 1949 to 1955, the women ran combinations of 500, 3000, 1000 and 5000 meters. In 1955, the ISU decided to no longer allow the 5000 meter route for women’s competitions. The "Great Four Fight" at that time was converted into the route combination of 500, 1500, 1000 and 3000 meters, today's "Little Four Fight" for women. In 1982, after the reintroduction of the 5000-meter route for women, a new route combination was introduced for their "Great Four Fight" with the sections of 500, 3000, 1500 and 5000 meters.

In general, the four -fights are also called all-round multi-fights because of their character as a versatility test .


For single-distance competitions, the runner with the shortest measured time on the running route is determined as the winner.

In multi-distance combinations ( four -way combat ), the times of the individual runs of each athlete are converted to the average for a 500-meter section and added to a number of points. Example: a time of 2: 09.6 min, i.e. 129.6 s, achieved over 1500 meters is divided by three and results in 43.2 “points” that are included in the evaluation. The total number of points of the individual runners is compared with each other, whereby the runner with the lowest number of points is declared the winner and possibly the record holder. The final ranking is based solely on the average times achieved and converted to 500-meter distances, not on the placement in the individual races.

Running style

Basic principle

In principle, locomotion takes place by alternately pushing off with one skate and sliding on the other foot.

At temperatures down to −30 ° C there is a very thin (70 nanometers at 0 ° C) layer of liquid on the surface of the ice , which is additionally increased somewhat by the pressure on the skate. On this liquid layer, the frictional resistance during the sliding process is very low and therefore a high speed on the ice can be achieved with relatively little use of force.

In order to push off sufficiently far with their legs, speed skaters have to crouch down deeply. At the same time, this requires the upper body to lean forward to achieve balance. This results in the typical crooked hump running of this sport.

When sprinting, the arms are usually alternately swiveled to the side in order to maintain equilibrium; when running briskly on the long distance, depending on ability and disposition, rest on the back.

For further basics, see also the Functionality of Ice Skating .

Start phase

At the start, the runners usually stand in an upright position; Occasionally, a stooped low start is performed with a supporting hand on the ice. One foot is in the abutment position, the other in the sliding position. At the start signal, a rapid sequence of short, quick steps begins, which does not yet contain a gliding phase, rather the body is brought close to running speed by numerous short pushes. Both skates are angled laterally outwards. If the speed is sufficient, there are increasingly longer gliding phases until the transition to running style on the straight.

Run on the straight

In contrast to the pushing off on the back in art skating and ice hockey, the speed skater pushes himself off with his legs alternately to each side on a straight stretch, whereby the runner remains in contact with the ice surface over its entire length. The foot that is not pushing is then in the sliding phase. The ground, weak bulge of the apparently straight runner sliding surface results in reliable penetration into the ice surface in order to gain the resistance at the runner edge for the pushing process. Due to the constant alternation of push and glide foot, this technique leads to a curved, clearly zigzag-shaped walking path, with which the greatest possible speed on the ice is still achieved.

Representation of the speeds in speed skating over 10 km.
The red line shows the current world best. The blue dots are top speeds per season.
A - Introduction of artificial ice
B - Introduction of aerodynamic suits
C - Introduction of indoor tracks
D - Introduction of folding ice skates
E - Introduction of aerodynamic strips


At the end of each push-off process, the push foot must be placed in front of the sliding foot in order to take over the sliding itself. In the curve, the "former" butt foot in front of the "straight ahead" still gliding foot must be placed further towards the inside of the curve in order not to be carried tangentially out of the curve. In order to secure this direction, the now push foot must not only exert pressure to the rear, but also to the outside of the curve. Therefore, when running counter-clockwise as standard, the left leg on the inside of the curve always pushes itself off against the centrifugal force to the right or outwards behind the right leg on the outside of the curve . This process is called translating . Due to the stooped running posture, the body's center of gravity is favorably shifted downwards, which makes it easier to quickly run through curves against the centrifugal force.


Top runners reach a continuous speed of about 48 km / h , in the sprint up to over 60 km / h for a short time. The highest average speeds are not achieved on the shorter 500-meter sprint route, but on the 1000-meter route. The reason for this is the larger proportion of the slower start phase on the shorter route. The average speeds on the 1500-meter route are roughly the same as those on the 500-meter route. Only on the 3,000-meter and 10,000-meter routes is there a clearer drop in speed compared to the previously shorter competition distance.

The statistical analysis of the speeds on the 10,000-meter route, for example, shows a largely linear increase from 1945 to the present day without any currently recognizable approach to a limit value. In contrast, in athletics the times and speeds approach a limit value more clearly (compare the course of the world record time in the 10,000 meter run ). It also shows that the speed on the ice has increased by around 25% since 1945 and on the 10,000-meter route, while the comparison value for the same running route on the cinder track is only 10%.


Ice skates

Around 1870 the first usable all-metal ice skates were brought onto the market in the USA . The ice skate boots used until around 1980 were developed as early as the turn of the 20th century. The boots weigh between 480 and 630 g and are usually firmly attached to the skates. They have lace-up shoes made of cowhide or goat leather that reach below the ankle, and more recently also made of plastic; the lining consists largely of pigskin lining and the edges are padded. Inner joints are worked out, the back cap is lengthened. Metal upper components that are soft-soldered and spot-welded complete the sled-shoe unit. In the shoes, the athletes often do not wear stockings in order to get the best ice feeling .

The long steel runners, also known as bread knives because of their extraordinary sharpness , are up to 45 centimeters long and about 0.9 to 1.2 millimeters thick. The running surface has a flat surface with a slight curve in the longitudinal direction, which enables good cornering. The tip is rounded, the end sloping backwards. In the traditional construction, the runners are firmly embedded in a tubular metal construction, the torpedo , which in turn is firmly connected to the shoe sole with support elements and retaining plates. More recent developments have plastic and aluminum profile frames instead of the metal torpedo.

The runners are delivered from the factory with a pre-ground longitudinal curve. The radius of curvature is between 23 and 27 meters, depending on the model. With these rounded dimensions, the central area of ​​a 40 centimeter long, horizontally placed runner sinks about 0.8 to 1.0 millimeter deeper into the ice than the end areas. Some runners prefer smaller and therefore more pronounced curvature radii, which then give more grip when pushing off to the side. With the large radii of curvature, this can easily be applied by sharpening the ends of the runner.

After a few runs, the runner must always be sharpened. This is done in a clamping block with the runners of both skates clamped in exactly parallel and a flat grindstone that is guided along the sliding surfaces by hand. It is important to achieve the sharpest, right-angled edges on the runner, which can be pressed into the ice, through a sensitive grinding process in addition to the smoothness. An indication of a sufficiently sharp edge is when a clean chip is removed from a thumbnail that is swept lightly over the edge. The weak longitudinal rounding of the runner must not be ground away.

The last stage of development is the folding ice skate , in which the runner folds down when the heel is lifted with the buttock extended and is only pulled back by a spring when it is finally lifted off . This means that the runner can be left on the ice over a longer distance and with the heel lifted off to push off. Especially long-distance athletes from 3000 meters benefited from it.

Conventional high-speed ice skates are available from 150 euros , folding ice skates including runners can cost from 500 euros and the latest high-tech developments with individual adaptation cost over 2000 euros.


The clothing has a not insignificant function in a competition run. In the beginning it was mainly used as protection against the cold for the natural ice rinks of that time, after the emergence of indoor competitions its function shifted mainly to aerodynamic body optimization, which also includes muscle shaping.

At the first organized Fen Skater competitions in England , guild -like, folk-looking clothing was seen, consisting of half-length, dark trousers, long stockings, white sweaters and a round black cap . At that time, Norwegian athletes in this outfit also showed a slightly modified style with white sweaters and a round cap, but with tight-fitting and long trousers.

Clothing in the 20th century switched to woolen tights and tight-fitting sweaters as well as a hat that covers the ears. In 1974, the Swiss architect and runner Franz Krienbühl developed a one-piece skin-tight suit (a full-body hooded suit) based on aerodynamic considerations, which was initially mocked with amusement. When Krienbühl achieved eighth place in this suit at the 1976 Olympic Games at the age of 47, this attitude changed immediately. Since then, all runners have been wearing this one-piece suit or, in the meantime, aerodynamically optimized individual parts, which have mostly been tested in the wind tunnel. The clearly recognizable influence of aerodynamics occasionally leads to attempts to achieve advantages with special changes to clothing.

Overall, despite all the experiments, no fixed regulations have been established. However, all new developments must be approved by the ISU technical commission for international competitions. On the occasion of the OWS 1998 , the Dutch speed skaters wore suits with five 1 mm wide and 1.5 mm thick silicone strips (on the thigh, on the hood), which are supposed to improve aerodynamics by ensuring the correct vertebral tear (with individual adjustments). At the OWS 2002 , improved materials were used for the running suits. In order to protect themselves against eye infections, the competitors usually use slippery plastic goggles.

Since the mid-1990s, the ISU rules have allowed athletes to wear running clothes at a max. to wear five sponsors' logos, but they must not exceed a specified size; in the case of national comparisons, on the other hand, there are more generous national regulations. - DESG allows its athletes six advertising spaces on their racing suits, some of which they market themselves or receive a percentage from the athletes. This then z. B. the youth work are financed (as of 2002).


Track dimensions, the blue line shows, as an example, from the inner track starting point for the 10,000 m run, the first lap with the rule-compliant lane change to the outer track. The other runner crosses over to the inside lane

According to the rules of the German Speed ​​Skating Association, oval running tracks with either 400 meters or 333.33 meters are permitted. At ISU competitions , a track length of 400 meters is required. The curves should have an inner radius of 25 to 26 meters, the track width should be between four and five meters. The regular competition track is therefore a 400-meter-wide, oval track on which two competition lanes, each five meters wide and with a warm-up track at the center, are separated. The curve radius is 25 meters on the inside line of the inner lane and 30 meters on the dividing line between the two competition tracks, the straights are each about 110 meters long.

In the course of the competition, the runners cross lanes on the alternating straight in each lap. This compensates for the length of the distance run after each lap. The starting points are offset according to the initial difference in length between the inner and outer lanes. Since the last part of a running route should have a home straight, there are also different starting areas depending on the length of the running route.

Short courses are used in the absence of a large 400-meter course. Depending on the available area, e.g. B. on an ice hockey rink, the length of short courses is between 120 and 200 meters. Local speed skating championships on short tracks are held over the same distances as on the long track, with the 10,000-meter route being run less often.

The special short track races have set themselves apart from speed skating as an independent sport and are carried out on a 111.12 meter long oval track.

Technical advancements

See also: History of Speed ​​Skating

In addition to personal commitment, further technical developments made further increases in speeds possible:

  • from 1960 (Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley ) the introduction of artificial ice rinks , the smoother and more uniform surface of which favored higher speeds, at which the repeated smoothing of the "ruts" of previous runs was possible with special "sweeping machines",
  • From 1974 suits made according to aerodynamic principles were introduced for the first time by Franz Krienbühl and proved to be very successful despite initial skepticism,
  • Starting in 1986, competitions were held in indoor lanes (for the first time in the Sportforum in Berlin), which enabled thinner and more comfortable clothing thanks to the weather protection and equal conditions for all competitors during the successive pair runs of the entire day of the competition,
  • From 1997 onwards, the folding ice skates were widely used; thanks to the variable angle of attack at the foot, they enabled a longer push-off phase and thus a better use of strength.
  • It has become quiet again around the "Aerostrip" fabric, which was attached to exposed areas on the suit around 2008 and which should have a flow-promoting effect.

Competitions, separate awards and extra rules


World championships, European championships and a series of up to twelve world cups are held annually by the international umbrella organization ISU (International Skating Union). The ISU registers world records over all world championship routes. Speed ​​skating is an Olympic sport and has been part of the Olympic Winter Games program since 1924 .

In addition, the ISU also gives special awards to athletes. In March 1999, Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann and Marc Heiden were publicly honored with the title Speed ​​Skater of the Century . The Jacques Favart Trophy for merits in ice skating, also awarded by the ISU, went to high-speed skier Bonnie Blair and athlete Johann Olav Koss in 1996 .

If the fall of one runner hampers the other, the jury can decide to repeat the run for this runner; this is what happened at the all-round World Cup in 2001.

Individual distance and all-round competitions

The program at the Olympic Winter Games and World Championships includes 500 meters, 1000 meters, 1500 meters, 3000 meters (women only), 5000 meters and 10,000 meters (men only).

All-round competitions are held at the current status over four different running routes. In the past, the "Little Four Fight" and the "Big Four Fight" were held over two days over two distances between 500 and 10,000 meters each. The competitions are now held in three days in the following order:

  • Women
    • Day 1: 500 and 3000 meters (World Championship) or 500 meters (European Championship)
    • Day 2: 1500 meters (World Championship) or 1500 and 3000 meters (European Championship)
    • 3rd day: 5000 meters
  • Men
    • Day 1: 500 meters (World Championship) or 500 and 1500 meters (European Championship)
    • Day 2: 1500 and 5000 meters (World Championship) or 1500 meters (European Championship)
    • 3rd day: 10,000 meters

Long distance competitions

  • Distances of 10 to 100 kilometers are not part of the program at international championships, but are very popular in countries such as the Netherlands and Norway. In contrast to the aforementioned races, a mass start is also possible here. A classic on natural ice that is only possible in severe winters is the 200-kilometer Elfstedentocht in Friesland ( Netherlands ).

Team pursuit

Since 2005, the team races or “ team pursuits ” that have been held at Junior World Championships since 2000 have been included in the programs of World Championships and Olympic Games. Two teams of three runners each compete against each other. It starts from the middle of one of the straight lines facing each other. The distance is six laps (approx. 2310 m) for women and eight laps (approx. 3080 m) for men. Practically only the inner lane is run, there is no change between the inner and outer lanes.

The winner is the team that crosses the finish line first with all three runners. The time measurement takes place when the last team member crosses the finish line, whereby the part of the body located at the back (including the skate runners) when crossing the finish line is the point that is decisive for the victory or the measurement. The overall winner will ultimately be determined over several knockout rounds in the final.

The starting line-up for the runners behind the start line is arbitrary, they can start next to each other, behind one another or staggered. The runners can take turns in the order they want during the run. This works best in the bend, where the front runner swings out a little and lets those behind him pass by. By running in the slipstream of the people in front, the leading runner can run with maximum strength and let himself be "pulled along" after the next change of position. This enables higher speeds than with a single run. Tactically optimal must be run in such a way that in the final lap even the weakest runner crosses the finish line at the same height as possible or as close as possible to the other team runners. Pushing a team member from behind is practiced on occasion and complies with the rules.

Mass start

In 2011, the mass start was introduced in speed skating as a competitive discipline with its own execution and evaluation rules. Up to 30 runners compete against each other on the track at the same time. The start is staggered, 16 laps must be covered. The rules require that the participants integrate a sprint into their run after completing four laps . Points are awarded to the first three runners of each sprint. Scoring points and the measured time decide in the end about the winner.

Global competitions

Continental competitions

Individual athletes

Known runners

The nobility calendar shows a ranking according to various best times for women and men . For more runners see the list of known speed skaters and the list of world speed skating champions .

Successes of German athletes

With Erhard Keller, trained by the Norwegian Thormod Moum , as a world record holder and Olympic champion, the previously hardly noticed speed skating became particularly popular in Germany from the 1970s, and in 2011, Keller was inducted into the Hall of Fame of German Sports . While the men's international successes of recent times have been spread across several nations, preferably the Dutch, women have been dominated by runners from the former GDR since the 1980s and from reunified Germany since 1990 . From 1980 (individual distance world championships since 1996, since 2002 no individual distance world championships in the year of the Olympic Winter Games , team since 2005) to 2002 (Olympia) or 2005 (world championships) German runners won:

  • 51 of 99 Olympic medals awarded (51.5%)
    • 15 of the 33 possible Olympic victories (45.5%)
  • 78 of 156 world championship medals in sprint and all-round all-round competitions (50%)
    • including 36 of 52 world championship titles (69.2%)
  • 63 of 138 world championship medals on the individual courses (including team competition 2005) (45.7%)
    • thereof 29 of 46 world championship titles (63%)
  • Since the beginning of the World Cup in 1986, they have won 237 of all 582 individual races (40.7%)
    • 88 of 122 of them on the long-haul routes (3000/5000 m) (72.1%).

Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann alone won 99 (and thus 17%) of all World Cup races since the beginning up to and including 2005, as well as 19 of 84 (23%) world championship titles since she first participated in the World Cup in 1989.

Since 1981, the German women have set a total of 65 world records in all disciplines, 19 of which are held by Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann and 10 by Karin Enke .

With five Olympic victories in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006 as well as four other Olympic medals, Claudia Pechstein is the most successful German Olympic athlete to date at the Winter Games (men and women).

National Associations


  • Matthias Opatz: Pocket Guide to Speed ​​Skating. Lotok Verlagbuchhandlung, Stedten ad Ilm 2005. ISBN 3-939088-00-5 .
  • Matthias Kohl: Speed ​​skating [paperback]. Limpert, 1997. ISBN 978-3-7853-1603-0 .

Web links

Commons : Speed ​​Skating  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: speed skating  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Weekly magazine Neue Berliner Illustrierte , 1980. Issue number or page has not been cut out.
  2. a b Sport-Bild magazine , 1998.
  3. Berliner Zeitung , 15./16. November 2002.
  4. a b ISU World - Official Newsletter 4 (1997).
  5. Berliner Zeitung , February 20, 2006: Premiums / Cashiers .
  6. Speedskatingnews.info: Quartet starts from 2002.
  7. a b DESG regulations. ( Memento of December 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). (PDF; 602 kB)
  8. Data: EvertStenlund.se .
  9. focus.de: US racing suits cause trouble. February 12, 2013, accessed October 21, 2019.
  10. ^ ISU website, 1999.
  11. Guinness World Records (2001), p. 184.