PyeongChang 2018 new event: Long track speed skating’s mass start

Next February, four sports will feature events that will be brand new to the Olympic Winter Games. In a series of installments, will give you the low down on these new events and what they might mean for Team Canada at PyeongChang 2018.

First up … Long track speed skating’s mass start.

As the name implies, all competitors are on the ice at one time and start simultaneously, racing over 16 laps of the 400m oval.

A crowd rounds a turn during the men's mass start competition at the ISU World Cup speed skating event in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lyle Aspinall

Men’s mass start at the ISU World Cup speed skating event in Calgary on Nov. 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lyle Aspinall

Related: Blondin, Bloemen and Boisvert-Lacroix impress at Worlds

The Olympic competition begins with two semifinal heats. The top eight skaters from each semifinal advance to the final.

But the results of the race aren’t just based on the finish.

During the race there are three intermediate sprints (after four, eight and 12 laps). Skaters are awarded points for the sprint (five for first, three for second, one for third) that count towards the final standings.

There is also one final sprint. Skaters are awarded 60 points for first, 40 points for second, and 20 points for third, ensuring that the first three finishers of the final sprint will also be ranked as the top three in the race results and get the medals.

This addition brings the total number of long track speed skating events to 14. It is the only individual speed skating event in which the athletes race directly against the field rather than the clock.

Related: Blondin’s win puts Canada in exclusive territory in women’s sport

History of mass start speed skating

The mass start event was introduced to the World Cup circuit during the 2011-12 season. It officially made its World Single Distances Championships debut in 2015. At the Olympic Games, the only previous time that long track speed skating events were held with mass starts was at Lake Placid 1932, where the North American racing rules of the time were used.

Canada at PyeongChang 2018

The Olympic mass start events will each feature 24 skaters. Canada can enter a maximum of two athletes per gender. Qualification will be based on the results from World Cup events in November and December 2017.

Ivanie Blondin, of Canada, finishes to win the women's mass start race of the World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships in Kolomna, Russia, on Sunday, Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Ivanie Blondin races to mass start gold at the World Single Distances Championships in Russia, on Feb. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Related: Blondin becomes mass start world champion in two-medal final day

The inclusion of the mass start at the Olympic Games is welcome news to Ivanie Blondin, who won the world title in 2016 after finishing second at the world championships in 2015. She won the overall World Cup title in 2014-15 before finishing second in the World Cup standings in 2015-16. At the first three World Cup stops of 2016-17, she won two gold and one silver.