Speed skating is one of the most popular events at the winter Olympic with fans from around the world watching closely. But how much do you really know about the sport? The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics has a total of 14 speed skating events, which are divided equally between both men and woman. The events take place on an individual basis, with a mass start as a team pursuit. But that’s not all there is to it! We’ve got everything you need to know about the speed skating pursuit rules and how the team pursuit works. So, you’re going to want to brush up before the final big races at the Winter Olympics 2018!

Speed Skating Distances

The types of events are the same for both men and women, the only differences are the distances that are skated. Below are the distances for both men and woman, which are measured in metres.

Men Speed Skating Events Women Speed Skating Events
500m 500m
1,000m 1,000m
1,500m 1,500m
5,000m 3,000m
10,000m 5,000m
Mass Start Mass Start
Team Pursuit Team Pursuit

 The only difference is that the men have a 5,000m and 10,000m event, where the women’s distance is reduced to 3,000m and 5,000m for the longer distance races.

Below are the number of laps that each speed skater would encounter during each one of the races.

Distance Number of Laps
500m 1 1/4
1,000m 2 1/2
1,500m 3 3/4
3,000m (Only Women) 7 1/2
5,000m 12 1/2
10,000m (Only Men) 25
Mass Start 16
Men’s Team Pursuit 8
Women’s Team Pursuit 6

 Standard Rules for Speed Skating

The standard requirement for a skating venue is a 400-meter oval, which would have to be approved by the International Skating Union (ISU). Skaters complete the races on a counter-clockwise basis and are timed to a one-hundredth of a second, to determine close races.

How Does Individual Speed Skating Work?  

In this event, there are two skaters that compete in side-by-side lanes. Skaters are ranked based on their world cup results, leading up to the Olympics.  

Based on this ranking, lower ranked skaters are competing first in their preliminary rounds, where as the higher ranked skaters complete in their races last.

Skaters are put into groups to ensure the event is organized. In short skate events such as the 500m or 1,000m races, there are eight skaters in each group. Longer races, such as the women’s 5,000m and the 10,000m men’s event, have four races in each group. 

How Does the Team Pursuit Work? 

Team pursuit is very similar to the individual speed skating events, where there are two countries competing at one time. The big difference is that there are three skaters competing at one time, representing one country. Men skate eight laps, which is 3,200m and the women skate a total of six laps, 2,400m.

The pursuit for gold is completed in phases; the quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the finals, with each race being an elimination round. A team must ensure that all three of their skaters cross the finish line to receive the victory over their competitor.

What Is ‘Mass Start’ Speed Skating?

If you are wondering what mass start speed skating is, you’re not alone; it actually only made its debut at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics! This has many very curious about this new addition to the speed skating events.

The event consists of a total of 16 laps and a maximum of 24 skaters. The skaters begin the race scattered across the start line. Unlike the individual race, which is based on timing, mass start speed skating is based on a points system.

During the fourth, eighth, 12th and final lap, skaters are awarded with sprint points. In each of these sprint point laps, there are five points awarded to the first-place skater to cross the starting line, three points to the second-place skater, and one point to the third-place racer. The last sprint lap awards: 60 points to the competitor in first, 40 points to that in second, and 20 points to the third-place skater.

The purpose of this race is to tactically plan a strategic race around the laps that award sprint points. For instance, it is quite possible that the skater that crosses the line third, may have more points than the second-place finisher. The skater with the most points at the end of the race, wins. So, it’s not necessarily a game of speed, but perhaps more of technique and skill.

Now that you’re caught up to speed and knowledgeable about the exciting speed skating events, be sure to tune in and see who goes for gold!