Beijing 2022 Bluffer's Guide: Short Track Speed Skating

By Ned Kelly, January 29, 2022

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What is it?

As if we need to tell you.

Short track speed skating, as we all remember, is the event where the other four skaters are beating the Australian guy. Like, they've left him for dead. The Aussie is out of contention.

And then… and then… and then… on the very final corner, the four-person leading pack all crash into each other – limbs flailing, skates in the air, cold bums colliding as they ice-slide into crash mat-covered hoardings.

And the Aussie guy just saunters past them all, arms aloft in disbelief, cheeky grin painted across his fortunate face – the most outrageously unlikely gold medal winner in Olympic history.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is short track speed skating.

Okay, okay – a little bit more information...

Unlike traditional, long track speed skating, short track speed skating sees contestants race against each other instead of the clock, testing the speed, technical ability and aggressiveness of its competitors. 

Yup, aggressiveness; rooted in the pack-style racing that was popular in North America during the first part of the 20th Century, contact often occurs as skaters jockey for position. Falls – and, when we're lucky, spectacular pile-ups – are common; skaters wear protective pads, helmets and gloves, and the walls of the track are padded.

Passing strategies and pacing are important components of the sport, and, due to the the sharp turns at high speeds, participants also wear a special speed skate with a taller blade and higher boot, providing extra support.

It all takes place on an indoor track the size of an ice hockey rink with a lap length of 111.12 meters.

The Olympic competition features nine events in total: individual short track races over 500, 1,000, 1,500 and 3,000 meters for both men and women, and four-person relays covering distances of 3,000 meters for women and 5,000 meters for men.

Making its Olympic debut this year is the mixed team relay. The 2,000 meter race sees two women and two men from each country combine to cover 18 laps. Each skater races twice, following this order: woman-woman-man-man-woman-woman-man-man. So that should be fun.

The top two finishers from each heat advance to the next round.

When is it?

February 5-16

Where is it?

Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing Zone.

Who’s gonna win?

Some good news for the host nation: 2018 Games 500 meter Olympic champion and world record holder Wu Dajing is favorite to retain his title. Wu also won silver with his Chinese teammates in the 5,000 meter relay in 2018.

That 5,000 meter relay was won by Hungarian brothers Shaolin Sandor Liu and Shaoang Liu, who will pose a formidable threat to Wu. The Liu brothers... Hungarian?! They were born to a Chinese father and a Hungarian mother in Budapest.

Reigning Olympic champion in the women's 500 meter, Italian Arianna Fontana, is one medal away from becoming the most successful athlete in Olympic short track history, having won eight medals in four previous Games.

However, Fontana won’t be the favorite; 23-year-old Dutch sensation Suzanne Schulting placed first in every event at the 2021 World Championships, and will be looking to add more gold to her hoard.

That said, we can't rule out some random Aussie winning after everyone else crashes, can we?

What about China?

Along with the excitement of having world record holding favorite Wu Dajian in action, Chinese viewers have been getting pumped up for the Winter Olympics since a TV drama about China's short track speed skating national team debuted on January 9.

The 29-episode Beyond follows two parallel storylines: one, set in 1989, follows the first generation skating team and the very beginning of the country's short track speed skating history; the other takes place in 2014 as a younger generation of skaters prepare to make their dreams come true in 2022.

Now its time to find out if their real-life counterparts will!

Check out all 15 events in our Beijing 2022 Bluffer's Guide by scanning the QR code:

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[Cover image via Wiki]

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