How Fast Do Speed Skaters Go? (Explained!)

How Fast Do Speed Skaters Go

How fast do speed skaters go? This is one of the most common questions that the Winter Olympics evoke. And it ought to be obvious: they don’t call it “speed skating” for nothing.

In fact, Olympic speed skaters tend to glide across the TV screens so fast that some of the lesser events seem to end in a matter of seconds, as there’re always a ton of exciting ice sporting competitions at the Winter Olympics. But how fast do speed skaters go exactly?

Well, this is likely to cross your mind, especially, when you’re watching this exhilarating, heart-pounding sport play out on screen. So, in this article, we will be looking at speed skating to find out how fast speed skaters go, as well as what it takes to go at such speeds. Read on!

So, How Fast Do Speed Skaters Go

So, How Fast Do Speed Skaters Go

First things first, various factors may affect how fast speed skaters can go. This may include the kind of surface you’re skating on, the type of competition, and the distance being covered. The distances can range from a 500-meters straight sprint to 10,000-meter endurance races.

Having said that, the speed skating record for the 500-meter event is held by the Dutch skater, Sjoerd de Vries, who skated a time of 36.30 seconds in 2009, which corresponds to an average speed of approximately 63.8 kilometers per hour (39.8 miles per hour).

Meanwhile, the world record for the 1000-meter event is held by the Canadian skater, Jeremy Wotherspoon, who skated a time of 1 minute, 0.67 seconds in 2007. This comes to an average speed of approximately 88.3 kilometers per hour (54.9 miles per hour).

Back in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Shani Davis set the record in the 1000-meter speed skating event. He completed the 1000-meter race in 1 minute and 42.03 seconds, hitting a top speed of 30.85 miles per hour.

While this speed was incredibly fast, it wasn’t the only record that Davis was able to set!

In the 1500-meter speed skating event, Davis was able to set a record by completing the event in 1 minute and 42.19 seconds. He also set a record for the World Cup 500-meter speed skating event when he completed the race in 39.30 seconds.

Ice Speed Skating: How Fast Can You Go?

Ice Speed Skating How Fast Can You Go

The Olympic website states that short-track speed skaters can achieve speeds of up to 50 kph (31 mph) when ice skating. Inline skaters tend to get fairly close too.

Going 25 mph on ice is obviously considered pretty fast, but maintaining that pace for a whole mile or kilometer may be just quite faster than running, but slower when compared to cycling.

On that note, the Olympic record for ice skating was set by Charles Hamelin of Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang games. It took one minute and 23 seconds for 1000 meters. This corresponds to an average speed of about 25.4 mph (40.9 kilometers per hour).

Inline skating on the road or track is only slightly slower than skating on ice. On the track, Belgium’s Bart Swings established the world record in 2014 in Geisingen, Germany, clocking in at one minute, 17 seconds for 1000 meters, showing just how narrowly.

That translates to an average speed of 46.7 kph or rather 29 mph or 35 knots if you’re more of a sailor. In other words, the track inline skater completed the distance faster and with a greater average speed than the holder of the Olympic record.

However, that might not always be the case because these are two different kinds of competitions. In fact, Netherlands’ Kjeld Nuis holds a record for the fastest 1000m of ice skating, after doing it in one minute 6 seconds- an average speed of 54.44 kph (33.8 mph). That means ice speed skating can actually go faster than speed skating track.

Overall, based on a 1-kilometer ride, you will be hovering at a 30 mph mark on both ice and road/track speed skating. Moreover, the average speed stays just about the same in both cases even when covering much greater distances. Both can maintain a speed of 27 mph on average over a distance of approximately 10 kilometers.

How Fast Olympic Speed Skaters Can Go

How Fast Olympic Speed Skaters Can Go

Now, let’s start by saying that the Winter Olympics is an event full of sports and emotions. From heartbreaking moments to the most amazing sports moments ever; the records are always tumbling when it comes to inline speed skating.

Note that there are two different types of speed skating sports featured in the Olympics, each with its own set of events: short track and long track. Long-track speed skating is normally done on 400-meter ovals, whereas short-track speed skating is done on ovals over 111 meters.

In short-track speed skating, the race is usually full of turns, at least for the most part due to the smaller and tighter oval used. Speed skaters, therefore focus on maintaining their bodies as low as possible to make such tight turns. And they normally put their hands on the ice to efficiently maximize their momentum.

When it comes to long track, (sometimes referred to as just speed skating) the larger oval means making wide turns and more speed in straightaways. As such, long-track speed skaters are typically quite tall and with long legs to make up for the speed and broad turns.

Furthermore, unlike short-track speed skating, where athletes race against each other in one large pack, long-track speed skaters basically race against the clock.

Short Track Speed Skaters: How Fast Do They Go?

Short Track Speed Skaters How Fast Do They Go

According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), short-track speed skaters may attain an average speed of 31 mph. That means one lap around the small short-track oval can be performed in less than nine seconds.

Now considering such high speeds, you might be wondering why the race kicks off at a very low speed. But the fact is that short-track skaters have to build up to that high pace, building momentum with each turn they make. And the start of the race is more like a mastery of how they can effectively set and place themselves against the other competitors.

It turns out that there’s more that goes into short-track skating than just speed. The racer will have to mind their positioning throughout the race and their space proximate to other racers in the pack. Otherwise, a simple misstep or tiny elbow hit can knock them off the course.

Now considering the sport’s chaotic nature, where racers are constantly bustling for positions, no skater has successfully managed to defend their title, at least over the course of the last two Winter Olympics (PyeongChang 2018 and Sochi 2014), according to the International Olympic Committee.

Perhaps the only exception to this is Korea’s 3000 meters women’s relay team, which ranks the Republic of Korea as the most dominant country in the history of short-track speed skating.

Long-Track Speed Skaters: How Fast Do They Go?

Long-Track Speed Skaters How Fast Do They Go

According to the IOC, long-track speed skaters may reach speeds of up to 35 mph depending on the length of the race. This is higher than the speed limits of vehicles in some places.

While the South Koreans are known to have the most wins in short-track Olympics history, the Dutch Olympians are recognized for dominating long-track speed skating.

Interestingly, long-track speed skating has been around for far longer than short-track, according to the IOC. In fact, the history of long-track speed skating dates back to the 13th century, but speed skating- as a sport- became popular after the first Winter Olympics in 1924.

The earliest known competition took place in the Netherlands in 1676, while the first official speed skating competition took place in 1863, in Oslo, Norway.

Much later in the beginning of the 1900s, short track skating was invented in the US and Canada. It was developed by racers who couldn’t get access to the 400 meters tracks back then.

So out of necessity, they began skating on smaller ice rinks, which lead to the rise of short-track speed skating events. In 1992, short track was made an official Olympic sport in France, during the Albertville Games.

However, due to the high speeds involved, speed skating track doesn’t come without its risk. There are many speed skaters whizzing at the same time, nearly the same distance, and all focused on a competitive rank, which definitely increases the likelihood of a collision.

According to the IOC, they all wear razor-sharp blades that are almost 1.5 feet long and 1 millimeter thick. Therefore most speed skaters wear protective gear such as shin guards, helmets, neck guards, knee guards, goggles, cut-resistant gloves, and cut-resistant suits to safeguard their bodies.

The World Record Holder for Inline Speed Skating

The World Record Holder for Inline Speed Skating

How fast has the absolute fastest inline skater on the planet ever gone? Well, the Olympics are a great place to find out more about these amazing athletes. But let’s turn to Guinness for this.

In February 2016, Sandro Bovo set a downhill inline skating speed record of 77.47 mph (124.67 kph) in Teutonia, Brazil. In 2015, Brovo also took home the Italian Championship. And in 2013, he finished 3rd at the World Cup.

What about on ice?

Of course, it’s hard to find a stretch that runs downhill on ice- although some brilliant mind somehow came up with the notion. It has to be one of the most terrifying things around.

Nonetheless, Kjeld Nuis holds the record for fastest ice skating, reaching 93 kph on the flat. It is said that to accomplish this speed, he was shielded by a wind barrier.

For a longer distance, i.e. 10, 0o0 meters (10 km), the world record once again goes to the ice. The record for inline skating was set by Alexis Contin who took 13 minutes and 46 seconds.

For ice skating, the Canadian world champion, Ted-Jan Bloemen, beat it in 12 minutes and 36 seconds. This corresponds to an astonishing average speed of 47.6 kph (29.58 mph) over a 10-km ride.

Who Is The Fastest Speed Skater In The World?

Who Is The Fastest Speed Skater In The World

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this question as it largely depends on the particular race or competition that is being considered.

However, there are a few speed skaters who are consistently at the top of the podium and are therefore considered to be among the fastest in the world.

These include some of the aforementioned athletes and others such as J.R. Celski, Tianyu Han, and Sven Kramer.

Most of these speed skaters have broken world records and have won multiple gold medals in international competitions. The records are pretty close between both ice and inline skating.

For instance, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, which were held in Vancouver, Canada, saw twenty-two world records set in speed skating events.

The current world record for the 500 m event is held by Lee Seung-Hoon from South Korea who, in January 2010, skated a time of 36.03 seconds.

The male speed skaters who have recorded the highest speeds at the 500 m are, in order, Lee Seung-Hoon, Shani Davis from the United States, and Dutchman Sven Kramer.

What About Females Speed Skaters

What About Females Speed Skaters

Well, again, there are a lot of them as that person tends to come and go. But here are some of the most interesting ones:

According to Wikipedia, Belgium’s Annie Lambrechts holds the current records for 50 km, 30 km, and 20 km on inline skates. When did she get these records? In 1985. Additionally, Lambrechts took home 17 individual world championships between the years 1964 and 1981.

She smashed 50 kilometers in 1 hour, 21 minutes, and 21 seconds, 30 kilometers in 49 minutes and 15 seconds, and 20 kilometers in 32 minutes and 53 seconds. According to sources, this was one and the same race.

Meanwhile, Shin Soyeong from South Korea is the current fastest inline skater over a shorter distance, having completed 300 meters in 25.7 seconds, which is an average speed of 42 kph (26.1 mph).

What About the 2022 Winter Olympics

What About the 2022 Winter Olympics

Note that speed skating is a sport where athletes participate in speed skating events, such as the 500 m and 1000 m, and 1500 m events, racing each other by skating on oval-shaped tracks.

Now the 2022 Winter Olympics, which were held in Beijing, China, were all upon us, and everyone was eagerly waiting to see who will win the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals.

All speed skating competitions took place at the Ice ribbon, officially known as the National speed skating oval. Short-track skaters took part in various events organized based on distances, including the newly introduced mixed 2,000 meters relay competition.

The 2022 winter Olympics allowed skaters to compete in races of 1,500 meters, 1,000 meters, and 500 meters. For short-track relays, however, women participated in a 3,000 meters relay event while men took part in a 5,000 meters relay.

Team USA won 3 medals (one gold, and two bronze medals) in speed skating at the stated Winter Olympics and was ranked seventh in the standings as of Feb. 17.

On February 13, the same year, Erin Jackson, 29, became the first Black American woman to win a speed skating medal when she took first place in the 500m women’s competitions.

Final Words

Final Words

So how fast do speed skaters go? Well, as you can see, this question may seem like an easy one to answer, but there is a lot more to it than you think. Basically, speed skaters are capable of going very fast and this speed is what makes them so exciting to watch.

However, while speed skating is a sport that requires athletes to be fast, it requires a lot more than just being fast. Hopefully, you’re now pretty much informed about speed skating and the various records sets by different athletes across the world.

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Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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