When skates transformed from animal bones tied to shoes to iron-bladed boots, skating evolved into a competitive sport. In 1763, the world’s first organized speed skating race was held in England. Canada’s first recorded race took place on the St. Lawrence River in 1854 when three army officers raced from Montreal to Quebec City. By 1887, the Amateur Skating Association of Canada was formed. Seven years later, Canada became the first non-European country to join the International Skating Union. Speed skating was contested at the first Olympic Winter Games, in 1924.
There is no faster sport in the world, powered solely by the human body, than speed skating. Skaters can reach speeds of more than 60 kilometres per hour.
Speed skating takes place on a 400-metre oval ice rink. Timed to one-hundredth of a second, athletes compete in pairs, skating counter-clockwise around the oval and changing lanes once per lap, to equalize the distance covered. The skater in the outside lane has the right-of-way at the crossover if the skaters arrive at the changeover point at the same time.
Team pursuit was first introduced as an Olympic event at the Torino 2006 Winter Games. In this event, two teams of three athletes begin, simultaneously, on each side of the track. Team members take turns leading, with the remaining athletes following closely behind the leader to take advantage of the air currents. The team completes the race when the final team member crosses the finish line. The competition consists of elimination rounds, leading to a final race.