Speed skating basics

Posted Monday, December 8, 2008 9:28 AM ET

A draw for the starting order takes place the night before each individual event, with the exception of the second men's and women's 500m races. For those races, the skaters are paired according to the time classification from the first race, in such a way that the participants change starting lanes in the second race. If some skaters with the same starting lane in the first race get the same finishing time, drawn lots decide the ranks of those skaters.

In the second 500m races, the starting order of the pairs is opposite the ranking order. Thus, the skater with the best time of those who first started in the inner lane skates in the last pair against the skater with the best time of those who first started in the outer lane.

For each draw in all other individual races, the competitors are placed in groups, based on an individual ranking of the skaters according to the times they have achieved only in World Cup races during the season. Skaters without results from World Cup events will be ranked thereafter, according to their approved qualifying time. Once skaters are placed in groups, there is a random draw to determine start order within each group.

The start order for the preliminary round of the team pursuit will be based on the teams' ranks from the qualification competitions determining the selection of the eight teams.

Prior to each start, the names of those skaters about to compete are to be clearly announced at the starting point itself and in the dressing area. Failure to appear promptly at the start is equivalent to withdrawal from the distance. Once at the starting area, skaters place themselves at the pre-start line, which is two meters (6.56 feet) behind the start line.

Next, the starter orders the skaters to the start line, where the skaters take a stable position. The starter will then call "ready," whereupon the skaters take their starting position and keep this position until the starting shot is fired. Competitors must keep their skates entirely behind the starting line and may not have their skates on or over the starting line. In addition, the skaters may not touch the starting line or be in contact with the ice beyond the starting line with any parts of their body or equipment.

There shall be a distinct interval (about 1 to 1 ½ seconds) between when the skaters have taken their starting positions and the firing of the shot.

False start
If a skater takes the starting position before the word "ready," or leaves the position before the shot is fired, it is a false start. If one or both skaters intentionally are slow in taking up their starting position, the offending skater(s) are given a false start. Also, if one of the skaters breaks from his mark, thereby causing the other skater to follow her, only the skater at fault is given a false start.

The starter shall warn the skater committing the first false start. If both skaters are responsible for a false start, they shall both be warned so by the starter. When the starter calls the skaters of the pair/heat for a new start after a false start has been declared, then a skater committing a next false start of this pair/heat shall be disqualified from the race concerned.

Because the inner lane of the speed skating oval covers a shorter distance than the outer lane, skaters are required to change lanes once during each lap - with the exception of the first lap of the 1000m and 1500m events. The lane-change takes place when a skater arrives at the crossing straight (the back straight opposite the finish area) and the right of way is given to the skater switching from the outer to the inner lane. The skater leaving the inner lane is considered responsible for collisions, unless the other skater acts in an obstructive way.

Cutting the lines - When entering the curves, in the curve and coming out of the curve, a skater is forbidden to cross the inner line of the curve, as defined by movable blocks, for the purpose of shortening the distance. This offense may result in the skater being disqualified.

Leaving inner curve - If a skater, because of high speed, cannot hold the inner curve, she may travel into the outer curve as long as she does not interfere with the skater on the outer lane. The skater, however, must return to her lane or be disqualified.

Fresh start - A competitor who is interfered with, through no fault of his or her own, is allowed to make a fresh start, and the best time of his two races counts. If a competitor is unable to complete a race because of an obstacle on the ice, the skater is allowed to start again. A broken skate or dirty ice is not an acceptable obstacle. If the obstacle is a fallen competitor, or an obstacle that has come onto the ice because of an opponent's rule violation, the racer is allowed a fresh start. The skater can rest for up to 30 minutes between the initial race and the re-skate.

Two methods of timekeeping exist, automatic and manual. The use of automatic timekeeping is compulsory for the Olympic Winter Games. The term "automatic timekeeping" denotes a time-measuring system that is started automatically by the firing of a starting gun, and stopped automatically when the finish line is crossed by each competitor, respectively.

A manual timekeeping procedure also has to be put in place. If the automatic system partly or fully fails, the missing times will be established based on the manual results, which are results taken by hand on digital electronic watches.

A skater has completed a distance when the tip of a skate touches or reaches the finish line after the prescribed number laps. If a skater falls short of the finish line and slides across the finish, time will still be recorded at the moment the tip of the lead skate reaches the finish line, or the extension of the finish line if the skater is out of the lane. Should a skater, after a fall, travel out of both lanes, the official time is recorded by adding .20 seconds to the manual time.

A team finishes in the team pursuit when all three skaters complete the prescribed number of laps (eight for men, six for women). If fewer than three skaters of the team finish the race, the team is disqualified.



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