Right from Charles Hamelin to Kim Boutin, Clara Hughes to Cindy Klassen, skate lovers expect podium finishes from the top Canadian speed skaters. In fact, when you calculate short and long track speed skating simultaneously, it is the most successful Olympic sport of Canada with over 70 medals. But, they are two completely different sports and, agree or not, the difference between both the sports are more extreme than you can imagine.
Size of speed skating ovals –
Short track speed skating is done in smaller ovals measuring just 111m in length while long track ovals are 400m. For smaller short track ovals, turns make the most part of the race, thereby changing the requirements of both the skaters and their gear.
Events in speed skating-
The events for short track consist of single races over 500m, 1000m and 1500m along with a 5000m relay for men and a 3000m relay for women. It includes 4 to 6 competitors per heat, according to the distance.
Long track events consist of races in 500m, 1000m and 1500m for men and women. There are 5000m and 10000m races for men and 3000m and 5000m races for women. Every racer skates in their own lane against time.
Equipment used in speed skating-
Equipment is the biggest differentiating factor for short track and long track. Short track shoes are more rigid and have a higher cut to allow competitors to handle thrilling cornering forces. The skaters experience a similar force as that of a space shuttle during lift-off. On the other hand, long track shoes are low cut and not too rigid and can be bent in your hands.
Another difference lies in the design of the blades. Long track speed skates have clap skates with a hinging mechanism. The blades are connected in the front but they can disconnect from the heel. This helps the blade to be connected with ice longer while allowing the ankle to extend freely at the end of every stride. Eventually, this offers a bigger and more efficient stride for long skaters.
The blade technology of speed skating also sees a difference in length. Short track blades are 12 to 18 inches longer while the long track blades are 16 to 22 inches. The longer blades aid straightaway speed while the shorter blades help with controlled turnings.
There is a great difference in the helmets of short and long track skating. While helmets are mandatory for short track events because of the dangers and unpredictability involved, long track skating doesn’t require a skating helmet. Instead, skaters wear aerodynamic bodysuits which cover their heads too.
Apart from this, both long and short track speed skating use different techniques and strategies. So, a skater should learn the strategies of one of the sports to become a specialist. While both may appear similar on the surface, you possibly now understand why they are regarded as different sports. Pick your choice now and start practicing for it.