Speed skating, also known as long track speed skating, takes place on an oval-shaped, 400-meter long track of ice. This differs from the newer short track speed skating, which takes place on an oval track of 111.2 meters. The number of laps completed depends on the distance being skated.
While ice skating was developed earlier, speed skating's origins date back to, potentially, the 13th century. After the introduction of the all-iron skate in 1592, speed skating started to gain traction as a sport, which led to the first organized event in 1763. It wasn't until 1924 that the sport appeared in the Olympic Winter Games, where only men were allowed to participate. Eventually, in 1960, women were officially allowed to compete.
Races range from 500 meters to 5,000 meters for both men and women. However, only men compete in the 10,000-meter event and only women compete in the 3,000-meter event. The International Skating Union also holds world championships using similar distances, including the mass start and team pursuit events, though a few are different.
In each of these events, aside from the mass start and team pursuit events, two skaters participate in a race at a time. They must stay in their own lane as they race, switching each lap. Rather than racing each other, the participants only race against themselves, looking for their best time possible. Therefore, there is no physical contact between participants.
A mass start, on the other hand, puts a maximum of 24 participants on the ice for 16 laps, to be scored on a point system. The team pursuit involves two teams of three skaters that start on their respective straightaways of the track. The first team to have all three team members reach the designated number of laps with all three skaters wins the round.