Top 10 Rules of Speed Skating

Speed Skating rules and regulations

Speed skating is one of the fastest-paced and most exciting Olympic sports. Athletes compete in a race to see who is the fastest skater while navigating sharp turns and other racers. Speed skating has a set of rules designed to promote fair competition for all athletes. Keep reading to learn about the top 10 rules of speed skating.


What are the top 10 rules of speed skating?

  1. Starting Rules
  2. Crossover Rules
  3. Timing Rules
  4. Equipment Rules
  5. Contact Rules
  6. Single Distances Rules
  7. Team Pursuit Rules
  8. Mass Start Rules
  9. Skater Replacement Rules
  10. Olympic Qualification Rules

1. Starting Rules

speed skating starting rules

The starting rules in speed skating refer to how each individual should be positioned at the start of the race. Skaters must line up at the pre-start line until asked to take their mark, and no skater is allowed to touch or be over the starting line. Violating this rule is considered a false start. A false start is when a skater takes their position before the referee gives permission or leaves the starting blocks before the gun is fired. Skaters are issued one warning, and any player who false starts following the warning can be disqualified.

2. Crossover Rules

A crossover refers to the changing of lanes by a skater in a race. Each skater must cross over lanes at least once per lap because the inner lane of the track covers less distance than the outer layer. This change of lanes must occur at the back straight, and the right of way is given to the outer skater to prevent collisions. Leaving the inner curve at the wrong time or cutting the lanes can result in disqualification.

3. Timing Rules

In terms of timing in speed skating, most times are kept automatically instead of manually. This means that the time of each skater is tracked from the start of the firing gun to the cross of the finish line. This is the case at the Olympics and other high-profile events. However, even the Olympics use manual timekeepers in case the automatic system were to fail or malfunction. As stated before, all skaters must line up at their respective positions, take their marks, and remain still until the starting gun is fired.

4. Equipment Rules

speed skating equipment

There are a few equipment rules in speed skating designed specifically to create an even playing field and prevent cheating. Skaters are prohibited from having any technology or alterations made to their skates that would give them an advantage. Each skater must also wear a skin-tight suit, without modifications that change its shape to aid the skater. If a skater were to use a piece of equipment that does adhere to these requirements, they are subject to disqualification.

5. Contact Rules

speed skating contact rules

The contact rules in speed skating state that the skater in the outer lane of the track has the right of way. This means that any contact when crossing lanes is the responsibility of the athlete on the inside of the track. If contact or a collision occurs that affects the outcome for another skater, this can result in disqualification for the skater on the inside lane if it is felt that they did not give the skater on the outside the right of way.

6. Single Distance Rules

For single-distance events, athletes race just once as opposed to multiple times. They are split into pairs that skate simultaneously to create a more organized competition. To determine starting order, a draw takes place that puts each skater in a group based on their skill and accomplishments at the World Cup and World Championships. Group one contains the best skaters, and they race first. Group two contains the next best group of skaters followed by the second to last and last groups of skaters in groups three and four.

7. Team Pursuit Rules

In team pursuit speed skating, the rules state that each team must have three skaters. Each team starts on one side of a split track and must skate in that track the entire race. In order to win the race, each skater must cross the finish line, and any team unable to cross all three skaters is disqualified. The first country or team with all three of their skaters across the finish line is declared the winner. In the Olympics, multiple races and multiple eliminations are held, which is different from both the World Championships and World Cup, as these are both just a single race.

8. Mass Start Rules

The mass start is a race format that contains up to 24 individual skaters in a free-for-all to see who can finish first. The race is typically 16 laps long and contains three "sprint laps". Sprint laps include laps four, eight, and twelve. Each skater to finish these laps first is awarded points for doing so. However, these points do not count towards a medal; instead, they are only used to rank other skaters who do not earn a medal. The first three athletes to finish the 16 laps are given the gold, silver, and bronze medals.

9. Skater Replacement Rules

If an athlete were to decline an invitation to compete in the games or was not able to compete, it is up to the country of that athlete to decide their replacement. This is most often the case if an athlete has a family emergency or injury that keeps them from participating. More specifically, it is up to that country's Olympic organization to find a replacement. This is usually the next most accomplished skater from qualifying events.

10. Olympic Qualification Rules

For the Olympic Games, 166 speed skating spots are available for qualification. However, each nation is given a quota of athletes they can send based on their performance in the previous year's World Cup. Countries hold qualifying events in order to choose the athletes they will send for each event. A maximum of three athletes per nation can be sent for each event in speed skating. Each nation is permitted to send seven men and seven women, or occasionally one to two more based on their qualifications. For example, eight of a single gender can be sent if the country qualifies for all but one event, or nine if the country qualifies for every event.

FAQ

What are the three types of speed skating events?

The three types of speed skating events include single distance, mass start, and team pursuit races. Single distance races are individual events held for a specific distance between 500 and 10,000 meters. They are typically run in heats of three to four athletes, with the winners of each heat moving on to the final race. Team pursuit races feature two teams of three skaters, with each team starting on opposite sides of the oval. The first team to cross all three skaters over the finish line after a set distance is declared the winner. Typically, these are held in a matchup or tournament type format as teams race two at a time. Mass start races have up to 24 skaters at the starting line, and each skater must complete 16 laps. This is different from team pursuit and single distance because there are no lanes and all skaters race simultaneously.

How do team pursuit races work in Olympic speed skating?

A team pursuit race in the Olympics involves two teams of three skaters racing simultaneously on the same track, starting in opposite directions. These races are held on the inside track and skate eight laps in men's and six in women's. All three members must cross the finish line to finish, and if a team cannot get three members to the finish line, they are automatically disqualified. The Olympics differ from the World Cup and World Championships because the latter only feature one race, with each team's time ranked. In the Olympics, there are multiple rounds of eliminations.

What happens if you make contact with your opponent in speed skating?

If contact is made between skaters during a race, the benefit of the doubt is given to the outermost skater. This is specifically true when players are trying to cross lanes; the right of way must be given to the outer skater, or the inside skater may face disqualification. This is also true if a skater in the inner lane affects another skater's performance. In this case, the skater on the inside would again face disqualification.