Speedskating, the world's fastest human-powered sport, is going to get a little faster in 2010. Vancouver’s Richmond Olympic Oval is home to the world’s fastest and most technologically advanced speedskating track.
Sensors above, beside, and below the ice will help Olympic organizers maintain optimal ice surface temperatures – a slick 17.6 F on the straights and a stickier 21.2 F on the corners – which will in turn enable skaters to reach speeds in excess of 35 m.p.h. Watch for strong performances from the American, Dutch, Italian, and Canadian teams.
Who to Watch
Shani Davis, USA (see video)
At the 2006 Torino Games, Shani Davis made the history books by becoming the first black American to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics. Coming from a poor, single-parent Chicago family, Davis has become one of America’s preeminent speedskaters. He holds the title to seven World Champion events and two World All-Around titles, and has set two world records (1,000m and 1,500m). Check out his website for more.
Cindy Klassen, CAN (see video)
Canada’s Olympic juggernaut, Klassen became the first Canadian to win five medals in one Winter Olympics at the 2006 Games, adding to her bronze from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. She's a key part of Canada's strategy to win the overall medal count, and could surpass the record for most medals won in consecutive Olympic events – if Nordic combined athlete Felix Gottwald doesn't beat her to it.
Click here for schedule and results.
Individual: Two at a time, athletes race on a 400-meter track, changing lanes once per lap. The skaters with the top three overall best times medal.
Team Pursuit: Skaters compete in teams of three, two teams at a time. Competing teams start on opposite sides of the track and race to finish the four (women) or eight laps (men) as a unit. In each of the three heats, the winning team advances while the second-place team is eliminated
The Dutch have been skating as a means of transportation for some 800 years and were competing against each other for more than 400 years before speedskating was included in the first Olympic Games in 1924. Women skaters would have to wait another 36 years before they started competing in 1960 Games. The men and women’s Team Pursuit events were first included in the 2006 Games
Sources: nbcolympics.com, vancouver2010.com, www.shanidavis.org, cindyklassen.com