Speed skating is one of the three skating disciplines at the Winter Olympics, alongside figure skating and short track speed skating.
With 14 events in total, speed skating is the largest sport (in terms of events) at Beijing 2022.
So, who are the athletes to watch out for in the competition? What is the Olympic history of the sport? Here is our guide to the top five things to know about Olympic speed skating.
Skating for speed
Top Olympic speed skaters at Beijing 2022
Sven Kramer (NED) continues to be a major force in the men's field. The Dutch superstar is the first speed skater in history to win four consecutive World Allround Championships, and has won nine Olympic medals (including gold in the 5000m at the Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games, as well as another gold in the Team Pursuit at Sochi 2014). Kramer will compete at his fifth consecutive Games in Beijing.
Kramer's success is impressive, but he is still second to the legendary Ireen Wüst (NED) when it comes to Olympic medals. The Dutch speed skater is the most decorated active Winter Olympian with 11 medals, and has already cemented her legacy in Winter Olympic history by becoming the first athlete to have won a gold medal in an individual event at four different Winter Games.
Only six summer athletes have achieved this feat, and if Wüst wins gold again at Beijing, she will be the first and only person to have won gold at five editions of the Games. Wüst is the reigning Olympic and allround world champion in the 1500m, and has said she plans to finish her career with the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic season.
Ireen Wust: My PyeongChang Highlights
Other athletes who could challenge for a podium finish at the Games include Kjeld Nuis (NED) (gold medallist in the 1000m and 1500m at PyeongChang), Antoinette de Jong (NED) (bronze medal in the 3000m at PyeongChang, reigning world champion in the 3000m), Irene Schouten (NED) (2018 bronze medallist in the mass start, reigning 5000m world champion), Nils van der Poel (SWE) (the world record holder and defending world champion in the 10000m and 5000m world champion), and of course the Netherlands' men's and women's squads in the team pursuit.
Olympic speed skating schedule at Beijing 2022
The speed skating competition will take place from 5 February - 19 February 2022.
Olympic speed skating venue at Beijing 2022
All speed skating events will take place at the National Speed Skating Oval (also known as the Ice Ribbon), which is built on the site of the former Olympic Green Hockey Field and the Olympic Green Archery Field that were used during the 2008 Summer Games.
The Ice Ribbon is the world's first Winter Olympic venue using carbon dioxide transcritical direct cooling ice-making technology and will produce the largest ice surface in Asia with an area of 12,000 square meters. It will be able to accommodate 12,000 spectators (6,800 permanent and 5,200 temporary seats) during the Games, according to the bid book.
The venue can make ice according to the varying needs of different sports and their standards.
Olympic speed skating competition format at Beijing 2022
Speed skating will feature a total of 14 events at the Winter Olympics - seven for men and seven for women.
- Mass start
- Team pursuit
- Mass start
- Team pursuit
A total of 112 quota spots are available for athletes to qualify to compete in speed skating at the Games.
Pushing through that speed skating team pursuit
Olympic speed skating history
Speed skating made its Olympic debut at the inaugural Winter Games at Chamonix, France in 1924. However, women were only authorised to compete in the discipline at the Lake Placid Games in 1932, which was then only a demonstration sport. Women's speed skating was officially included in the Olympic programme at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley.
Almost all speed skating events consists of two skaters competing alongside one another, with each competitor looking to set the fastest time among all skaters in the field, not just the one they are racing against (save for the mass start and team pursuit events, introduced to the Olympic programme in 2018 and 2006 respectively).
Yet at the 1932 Winter Olympic Games, the Americans organised American-style events that used a mass start - instead of the common against-the-clock format. As a result, a number of European competitors boycotted, allowing the United States to win four gold medals. This system would give birth to short-track speed skating, which was added to the Olympic programme in Albertville in 1992.
The Netherlands are far and away the most successful Olympic speed skating nation with 42 gold medals (121 total). Ireen Wüst is responsible for 11 of those medals, including five gold medals. She is the most decorated speed skater in Winter Olympic history. Sven Kramer is the most successful men's Olympic speed skater, with nine medals (four golds).
The United States are in second in the all-time medal table (29 golds, 68 total), with Norway in third (27 golds, 84 total). U.S. skater Eric Heiden won five golds in every available speed skating event at the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, the most that any Winter Olympian has won at one edition of the Games.