Olympic short track speed skating at Beijing 2022: Top five things to know

Beijing 2022 will introduce a new event in short track speed skating for the first time in Olympic Winter Games history: mixed relay. Find out more about all the short track events, athletes to watch and other key information for the competition here.

By Will Imbo
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Short track speed skating is one of the three skating disciplines at the Winter Olympics, alongside figure skating and speed skating. But unlike in speed skating, competitors in short track race against one another - not the clock. As a result, short track races are full of strategy, bravery, skill and high-intensity excitement.

The competition will see nine events in total, including the mixed team relay, which will be making its Olympic debut.

Take a look at our preview for short track speed skating at Beijing 2022, including the history of the sport, potential medalists, venue information, and more.

Top Olympic short track speed skaters at Beijing 2022

Short track is a chaotic sport, with skaters continually jostling for position. It's fitting, therefore, that over the course of the last two Winter Olympics (Sochi 2014, PyeongChang 2018), no skater has been able to successfully defend their title - save for the Republic of Korea's 3000m women's relay team.

Given that the Republic of Korea is the most successful nation in short track speed skating in Olympic history (South Korean skaters won six medals out of a possible 24 at PyeongChang), it makes sense to suggest that Korean skaters will see the podium again at Beijing. All eyes will be on the women's 3000m team to see if they can achieve the three-peat in the event.

One of the stars of the aforementioned women's 3000m team to look out for in Beijing is Choi Min-Jeong (KOR). Choi also won a second gold in the 1500m in PyeongChang, and is the current 500m Olympic record holder.

However, the reigning Olympic champion in the women's 500m is the greatest female short track skater in Olympic history: Arianna Fontana (ITA). The Italian secured gold in the 500m, silver in the 3000m relay, and bronze in the 1000m in PyeongChang, bringing her total to eight medals in four Games. If she can win one more medal in Beijing, she will be the most successful athlete in Olympic short track history.

Yet while Choi and Fontana are top competitors in the sport, all eyes will surely be on Dutch sensation Suzanne Schulting (NED). The 23-year-old won the 1000m in PyeongChang, and won gold in every event at the 2021 World Championships (including the overall competition, which she won with 136 points - Courtney Sarault (CAN), who finished second, had 58 points). Schulting may struggle to pull off the same feat in Beijing, but there's no doubt she will be among the favourites to medal - regardless of the events she's competing in.

On the men's side, six-time world champion and reigning 1500m Olympic champion Lim Hyo-jun (KOR) should be among those challenging for the podium.

2018 500m Olympic champion and world record holder Wu Dajing (CHN) (who also won silver with his Chinese teammates in the 5000m relay at the 2018 Games) is a favourite to retain his title, while Hungarian brothers Shaolin Sandor and Shaoang Liu (HUN) (members of Hungary's winning 5000m relay team in PyeongChang) also pose a formidable threat. Shaolin won the 1000m and finished second to his brother in the overall competition at the 2021 World Championships, while Shaoang picked up gold in the 500m and silver in the 1000m. Both also won silver as part of Hungary's 5000m team at the competition.

Olympic short track speed skating schedule at Beijing 2022

The competition will take place from 5 February - 16 February 2022.

Olympic short track speed skating venue at Beijing 2022

All short track speed skating events will take place at the Capital Indoor Stadium, which was used to host the volleyball tournament at the 2008 Summer Olympics. The venue will also host the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The stadium has a seating capacity of 18,000.

Olympic short track speed skating competition format at Beijing 2022

Short track speed skating will feature a total of nine events at the Winter Olympics - four for men, four for women, and one mixed team event.

Men: 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 5000m team relay
Women: 500m, 1000m, 1500m, 3000m team relay

The top two finishers/teams from each heat advance to the next round, culminating in the 'A Final', where skaters will compete for medals.

Mixed Team Relay

The mixed team relay will be making its Olympic debut after being introduced to the Short Track Speed Skating World Cup program in the 2018-19 season. The event consists of a 2,000-metre race, in which two women and two men from a country combine to cover 18 laps. Each skater races twice, following this order: woman-woman-man-man-woman-woman-man-man. 

The track for these events is 111.12 metres (versus the 400 metres of speed skating). Short-track skaters start in groups, skate counterclockwise, and timing is to the thousandth of a second.

Olympic short track speed skating history

The origins of short track speed skating can be traced back to 1905, when athletes in the United States and Canada would compete in speed skating events that were held with mass starts on oval tracks. But due to the lack of 400m long tracks in both nations, many North American skaters elected to practice on ice rinks instead.

But speed skating on a smaller track brought new challenges to skaters, including tighter turns and shorter straightaways. In turn, new techniques and tactics began to evolve for skaters to find success on a shorter track.

The rise in popularity of the sport led to the two countries competing against each other on an annual basis, and in 1932, the organisers of the Lake Placid Winter Olympics, with the consent of the International Skating Union (ISU), agreed to follow these rules for the programme’s speed skating events.

In 1967 the ISU declares short track speed skating an official sport, but international worldwide competitions are not held until 1976, and the sport is only added to the Olympic programme in Albertville in 1992 when it made its debut with two individual events and two relays. Since the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, the programme of this discipline has included eight events (which will expand to nine with the inclusion of the mixed team relay in Beijing).

The Republic of Korea is the top nation in Olympic short track speed skating, with 48 total medals (including 24 golds). China and Canada are second and third respectively, with 33 total medals each (China has 10 golds to Canada's nine).

Viktor Ahn, who competed for the Russian Federation, and Arianna Fontana are the most successful short track skaters in Olympic history, with eight medals each. Ahn, however, has won six gold medals to Fontana's one, but Fontana can overtake Ahn in the medal table if she reaches the podium in any event in Beijing.