Five things to know about short track speed skating

Short track speed skating kicked off at the Winter Olympics on Saturday morning in PyeongChang for the qualifying rounds. Unless you’re a speed skating diehard — and good for you if you happen to fall into that camp — it’s likely been four years since the last time you watched speed skating, which means you probably have a few questions about the sport.

We’ve got you covered.

How long is each short track lap?

It can seem as if the skaters are going around and around and around, lap after monotonous lap, which makes sense, for each lap is just 111.111 meters. The men’s 500-meter short track record was set by Canada’s Charles Hamelin at 40.770 seconds and the 1,000- and 1,500-meter records are owned by South Korea’s Lee Jung-Su with times of 1 minute, 23.747 seconds and 2:10.949, respectively.

Charles Hamelin of Canada leads the field during the men’s 1500 meters on Saturday. (AP)

Where are the top American short track skaters from?

For the men, Federal Way, Washington, seems to be the spot. J.R. Celski and Aaron Tran both hail from Federal Way, and United States speed skating legend Apolo Ohno is from nearby Seattle. Tran and Celski made it through the initial qualifying rounds on Saturday.

Ohno won eight Olympic medals in his career — two gold, two silver, four bronze — and is now a commentator for NBC.

J.R. Celski is one of three of the United States’ top speed skaters from Washington.

What country is the power in short track speed skating?

As you may have been able to determine from Lee Jung-Su’s pair of records, South Korea is the world’s leader in short track. Since 1992, South Korea, the host of the 2018 Games, has won 20 gold medals in short track, and just five in all other Winter Olympic sports combined.

The South Korean influence spreads beyond simply the athletes as well. Great Britain, Hungary and Singapore all feature Korean coaches.

South Korea has a long line of success in short track speed skating. (Reuters)

The finish is determined by when your skate crosses, not your body

Unlike track and field, in which athletes will lean, and sometimes dive, over the finish line, speed skating finishes are measured by when the skate crosses the line, not the body. This will explain why skaters, after spending the entire race squatting down and nearly doubled over, will, in the race’s final moments, stand up and stick their skates out toward the finish line.

Finishes are determined by when the skate crosses, not the body.

Skates are sharpened by diamonds

The skates, obviously, need to hold a rather sharp edge to maintain such high speeds and precise turns. How do they remain sharp? Diamonds, obviously. Not all of them, but diamonds are the hardest and cut the fastest, which also makes them the most expensive of the sharpening tools.

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