The sport of speed skating has a long history at the Winter Olympics.
It was introduced in 1924 with men’s 500-metre, 1500-metre and 10000-metre races.
English speed skaters training in Chamonix for the Winter Olympic Games, 16th January 1924. From left to right, B. H. Sutton, L. H. Cambridgeshire and A. E. Tibbet. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
It wasn't until 1960 in Squaw Valley when the first women’s events were held. Although women’s races were previously demonstration sports, this was the first opportunity female athletes had to earn medals. They raced in the 500-metre, 1500-metre and 3000-metre events. Germany’s Helga Haase won gold in the 500-metre to become the first ever female Olympic speed skating champion, clocking in at 45.9 seconds.
February 1960: Helga Haase 25 year old speedskater during a race in East Germany. She was Gold Medal winner of the 500 metres speed skating at the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, California. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Speed skating races began to expand in 1976, when the men’s 1000-metre event was added. The next change for the women came during the 1988 Winter Olympics, where the 5000-metre race debuted. Yvonne van Gennip of the Netherlands captured that gold, as well as two others, making her one of the most successful athletes who competed Calgary.
Yvonne van Gennip of the Netherlands in action during the Women's 1,500 metres Speed Skating event on 27th February 1988 during the XV Olympic Winter Games in Olympic Oval in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Norwegian athletes have long excelled at speed skating. Since 1924, athletes from that nation have captured 80 total medals. In terms of individual records, Claudia Pechstein of Germany won nine from 1992 to 2006.
Claudia Pechstein of Germany skates to win silver in the Ladies' 5000M speed skating competition during the 2006 Winter Olympics 25 February 2006, in Turin. Canada's Clara Hughes won gold while Canada's Cindy Klassen captured bronze. (Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images)
Canada’s Cindy Klassen set at record in 2006 when she won five medals at a single Olympics. She left Turn with one gold, two silver and two bronze.
Turin, ITALY: Canadian Speed Skater medallist Cindy Klassen poses with her medals during a 2006 Winter Olympics medals' ceremony in Turin, 25 February 2006. (Photo by JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT/AFP/Getty Images)
Since the Winter Olympics in 1992, all speed skating events have been held indoors at a specific long track venue. In Sochi, they will be held at the Adler Arena in Olympic Park.
SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 24: (CHINA OUT, SOUTH KOREA OUT) Adler Arena Skating Center is seen on October 24, 2013 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by /The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
1992 also marked the introduction of short track speed skating. The sport has been dominated by the USA, Canada, China and South Korea. Together, the four countries have won 104 of a possible 120 medals since 1992. One of the most recognizable athletes in short track is American Apolo Ohno. He is the most decorated Winter Olympian from the US with eight medals.
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 20: Apolo Anton Ohno, gold, of the USA waits to receive his gold medal as photographers take pictures in the men's 1500m speed skating final during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games on February 20, 2002 at the Salt Lake Ice Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
About Sandra Prusina
Sandra is a sports journalist based out of Calgary, Canada. She's covered three Olympic Games, as well as other sporting events across Canada.
You can follow her on Twitter at @sprusina
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