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An Introduction to Speed Skating

Speed Skating


Almost everyone who has learnt to skate ends up wanting to go fast. The feeling of freedom as you propel yourself without any mechanical aid is unmatched. A proficient skater can make skating look effortless, as if their body and skates are merged as one.


Speed skating takes this unmatched freedom into the competitive arena, seeing individuals and teams of skaters race against each other over a number of varying, action packed race formats. For those without the competitive streak, speed skating is also a great low impact form of exercise that can be practised in a great social environment.


Speed skating is suitable for people of all ages, and is a sport that rewards perseverance and dedication. Take the time to finely hone your technique and you will be well on your way to becoming a highly competent speed skater.


Learning to Speed Skate:


The first step to becoming a speed skater is to learn to skate. Once you have learned the basics it is time to find a qualified coach, which is usually best done by joining a club that offers speed skating.


Information about speed training can also be found on the NSW Speed Skating Venues and Training sessions page. Some useful information can also be found on the hints, tips and links page.


For information on becoming a coach see the SkateNSW coaches and officials’ page or the Skate Australia coaches’ page.


Speed Skating Rules:  


International speed skating is carried out according to the CIC rules. Outdoor racing in Australia is also governed by these same rules with minor amendments that may be contained within event sanctions or other policies or procedures.


Australian indoor racing is governed by the Skate Australia, Indoor Speed rule book.


Further details on the rules can be found on the procedures, guidelines and rules page.


Speed Skating Equipment:    


Speed skating was contested exclusively traditional roller skates (quad) until 1992 when inline speed skates were introduced. Inline speed skates allowed for higher speeds to be obtained and in open competition (between quad and inline skaters) quads skates were not competitive. This resulted in the gradual disappearance of quads from competition. A recent development has seen the reintroduction of a quad only grade into the NSW race calendar due to growing demand from dedicated quad skaters.


Elite speed skaters used specially developed skates, with hand-crafted boots made of carbon fibre that are attached to aluminium racing frames. The wheels used are also specifically developed for racing with various types available for different surfaces and track conditions. This specialised equipment allows for average race speeds of up to 40kph, and maximum speeds of up to 60kph (on flat surfaces).


Helmets (ANSI approved) are mandatory for both indoor and outdoor competition while hand protection (such as cycling gloves) are mandatory for outdoor competitions only.


/wcb-content/uploads/skatensw/images/08 SPEED SKATING/spimmage004.jpgElite level speed skaters compete in a sports specific uniform known as a skinsuit. However, it is not mandatory to compete in a skinsuit and any pair of shorts and a shirt that covers the shoulders is suitable attire for speed skating.


Additional equipment information can also be found on the hints, tips and links page.


Speed Skating Venues:


Speed skating utilises a number of venue types including indoor venues such as skating rinks and sports halls through to outdoor venues such as purpose built banked tracks and open road courses.


Indoor speed skating is characterised by close racing on short (100m per lap) tight tracks.


Outdoor speed skating is typically faster than indoor skating. Purpose built banked tracks are typically 200m per lap, closed road courses usually range between 300m and 1000m per lap and open road courses can be of any length. Outdoor speed skating has the added variables of the weather and gradients that indoor speed skating doesn’t have.


For more information on speed skating venues in NSW please see the NSW Speed Skating Venues and Training sessions listing page.


Speed Skating Competitions:


Speed skating competitions exist across a number of levels ranging from local club events right through to the World Championships.


Typical championship events that are contested include:


Sprint races:

  • spimage06.jpgSolo time trials over 200m or 300m.
  • Series races over 500m and 1000m that see skaters competing in a number of rounds before qualifying for a final.


Endurance races:

  • Points races where the first two skaters across the line receive 2 points for first and 1 for second on designated laps.
  • Eliminations where the last placed skater across the finish line is eliminated from the race on designated laps.
  • Combination races which see the points and elimination races in a combined format.
  • Marathon and criterium races which can be of varying lengths and can see numerous race tactics unfold.


Relay races:

  • Where teams of skaters relay (change skaters) during the course of a set distance race.


The tactics in speed skating are very similar to those found in cycling, with drafting and pack skills playing major roles in the outcome of longer races.

Professional racing circuits have developed in the USA, Europe and Asia, with most attention currently being placed on the European WIC (World Inline Cup) Marathon circuit, which is run in a similar manner to professional cycling.

SkateNSW runs a year long programme with, on average one event each month. Skaters are graded on an ability basis and usually race over distances ranging from 200m up to 20,000m.

For further information on competitions within NSW please see the Speed Calendar and events notices page. Results of NSW races can be found on the results page.

For information on how to run an event or how to get involved with a skating event see the running an event and sponsorship pages.


Speed Skating Officials:


Without officials there would be no competitions. NSW has a small and dedicated team of volunteer officials and is always on the lookout for more.

Becoming a speed official can become an adventure in itself, with opportunities to officiate at NSW state based events, National events, Oceania events and at the pinnacle of the sport, the world championships.

For information on becoming an official see the SkateNSW coaches and officials’ page or the Skate Australia officials’ page.