(Reuters) – Focus on speed skating at the Beijing Olympics
THE ABSOLUTE BASICS
For the individual events, athletes race around a 400-metre oval ice rink for set distances ranging from 500m to 10,000m for the individual events. The fastest skater to complete the race wins, with subsequent rankings decided by time.
In the team pursuit event, two teams of three skaters race around the track in an elimination contest. The team that completes the prescribed distance fastest or catches up with the other team wins the race.
The mass start event kicks off with up to 24 skaters beginning all in one go in a chaotic opening. Rankings are determined according to a points-based system, with the first to complete the 16 laps winning the race.
HOW MANY MEDALS? A total of 14 gold medals will be awarded for the men’s and women’s individual, team pursuit and mass start events.
WHAT HAPPENED IN PYEONGCHANG?
The dominance of Dutch skating appeared to waver slightly at the Pyeongchang Olympics. Japan’s Nao Kodaira won gold in the 500m, while Nana Takagi clinched the inaugural gold for the mass start. The Dutch still won of the 14 gold medals up for grabs.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN BEIJING?
The Dutch are facing more competition than ever from countries such as Japan and the United States.
Top-ranking U.S. athletes Erin Jackson, Brittany Bowe, and Joey Mantia are well positioned to aim for gold, while Japan’s Kodaira will be seeking to maintain her title.
Beijing will host the speed skating events at the National Speed Skating Oval – the only venue to be newly built for the Beijing 2022 Games. The rink, which covers an area of 12,000 square metres, opened in October.
WHEN IS IT HAPPENING? The competitions will take place from Feb. 5 to 19.
WHERE IS IT HAPPENING?
At the National Speed Skating Oval, nicknamed the ‘Ice Ribbon’ in downtown Beijing.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Speed skating is said to have originated in Scandinavia and the Netherlands over a thousand years ago, when people would cross frozen bodies of water with skates made from animal bones.
The Dutch hosted the first world championships in 1889, and the sport has been part of every Winter Games since 1924.
WELL FANCY THAT
The first Winter Olympics gold medal was awarded to U.S. speed skater Charles Jewtraw at the 1924 Chamonix Games.
(Reporting by Sakura Murakami; Editing by Ken Ferris)