Speed skating is a timed racing event where competitors or teams race in pairs around an oval track in a race against the clock. The winner is the skater who posts the fastest time after all competitors have clocked in.
There are 12 speed skating events on the 2008 Olympic program, six for men and six for women.
Men: 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m, 10,000m and team pursuit
Women: 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 3000m, 5000m and team pursuit
The Richmond Olympic Oval, located less than nine miles south of downtown Vancouver, will host all speed skating events. Construction on the venue began in September 2005 and the Oval, which holds 8,000 spectators, opened in December 2008.
Men's speed skating
Torino recap: U.S. men dominate
The U.S. men won seven medals in Torino, including three gold. Chad Hedrick took home one of each color, winning the 5000m, taking silver in the 10,000m and bronze in the 1500m. Shani Davis won the 1000m to become the first African-American man to win an individual event at the Winter Games, and added a silver in the 1500m. Joey Cheek won the 500m and took silver in the 1000m. The only other nations to take home men's gold were Italy, with Enrico Fabris winning the 1500m and leading his team to gold in the pursuit, and the Netherlands, with three-time Olympian Bob De Jong overcoming a disappointing performance in Salt Lake City to win the 10,000m.
Vancouver preview: Returning favorites
Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick will return as the top U.S. contenders, with Joey Cheek retiring after Torino. Italy's Enrico Fabris also remains a top performer, after earning three silvers at the 2008 World Single Distance Championships. But the star of that event was the Netherlands' Sven Kramer, who took home three golds (5000m, 10,000m and team pursuit) - a feat he repeated at the 2009 Worlds, adding the 2009 World Allround title as well. Davis, who has consistently performed well since Torino, in 2008 won the 1000m and took bronze in the 1500m; in 2009, he won the overall title at the World Sprint Championships, and won the 1500m at World Single Distance Championships. Hedrick has struggled since taking time off after Torino, but returned to form for the 2008-09 season and won the 1500m and 5000m and took second in the 10,000 at the U.S. Long Track Championships. The home team also has a contender in Jeremy Wotherspoon, won the 500m at the 2008 World Single Distance Championships as well as the overall World Cup 500m title. Wotherspoon is recovering from a broken left arm, leaving him out for most of the 2008-09 season, but he expects to be ready long before the start of next season.
Women's speed skating
Torino recap: Canadian women break out
Before 2006, Canada had eight medals in women's speed skating. Led by Cindy Klassen, the Canadian women won seven in Torino, including silver in the team pursuit. Klassen won five, the most for a Canadian at a single Games: gold in the 1500m, silver in the 1000m and team pursuit, and bronze in the 3000m and 5000m, raising her career total to six. Teammates Kristina Groves (silver, 1500m) and Clara Hughes (gold, 5000m) each won an individual medal in addition to the silver in team pursuit. The Dutch women collected four medals, including gold and silver in the 3000m, and the Germans took home three, including gold in the team pursuit.
Vancouver preview: Klassen sets sights on 2010
Expectations for Cindy Klassen in Vancouver began to build as soon as the Torino Olympics ended. Though she decided to sit out the 2008-09 season to focus on her recovery from knee surgery in July 2008, Klassen expects to be in peak condition in Vancouver. But even without Klassen, the Canadian team could be formidable, with the return of Kristina Groves and Clara Hughes. Groves won five medals at the 2008 World Single Distance Championships, equaling Klassen's medal haul from Torino. At the same event, Germany's Anni Friesinger won the 1000m and 1500m, and will seek to improve on a disappointing performance in Torino. Paulien van Deutekom emerged as the top Dutch performer, taking silver in the 1500m 3000m and leading the Dutch to edge the Canadians for team pursuit gold. Van Deutekom also was the 2008 World Allround champion, ahead of teammate Ireen Wust and Canada's Groves.