What's the difference?
By Jerry Search, Southern California
Long and Short Tracks Illustration

Simple:  Long Track is skated on a 400 meter oval, about the same size as a running track, and Short Track is skated on a 111.12 meter oval, inside of a hockey rink
See PHOTO of this layout at the new Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City.
(Note:  this is a panoramic photo that is a bit large (150KB).
The difference between Long and Short tracks themselves can best be seen by looking at the illustration above, which is basically a diagram of the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In Long Track Olympic Style, or what we Americans commonly call "metric" speed skating, skaters compete in pairs, against the clock.  They are competing against everyone entered, not just against the other skater in their race.  In a 500 meter race, skaters skate one complete lap plus one straight-away.  A skater alternates skating the outside curve and the inside curve. The red line would be the path for one skater skating a 500 meter race.

For "pack style" meets, such as the U.S. National Championships, the skaters race with up to 8 skaters skating head to head, against each other.  The first skater to cross the finish line wins, and so forth.  Points are scored in each race as follows:  5 for First, 3 for Second, 2 for Third, and 1 for Fourth.  At the end of a meet, the skater with the most points wins.  In "pack style" Long Track racing, the skaters do not use both the inner and outer turns, they just skate on the inner track, which measures about 385 meters, depending on the rink.  The 1 lap plus 1 straight- away for 500 meters is roughly the same as the "metric" track, and the start and finish lines are in slightly different places to make up the difference.
In Short Track, in the same 500 meter race, skaters skate 4-1/2 laps.  Only a few distances, like the 500, and 1500, involve the half lap.  Most other distances are in even laps, such as the 1000.  Standard hockey rinks
   measure 200 feet by 100 feet.  Many other rinks are 200 by 90 feet.  Clubs with rinks smaller than 200 by 
90 can use a 100 meter per lap track, however, the Official National and International track is the 111.12 meter per lap size.

Lastly, as you probably know, while time trials are sometimes included as part of competitions, Short Track is Pack Style, with 4 to 6 skaters skating head to head in each race.  Point scoring is similar to Long Track Pack Style.
I should add that pack style racing has very strict rules against such things as interference, pushing, etc.  Regardless of what they say on TV,
Short Track is NOT Roller Derby on ice!

Lastly, the skates:

The Long Track Klap Skate.  There are many varieties of Klap skate, but the basic idea is the same.  The mechanism allows a slightly longer push, thus resulting in slightly faster speed.  This is now pretty much the standard for Long Track speed skating.  While Klap skates are not allowed in pack style racing in some countries, they are in the United States.  On the far right is a non-klap,
or "fixed blade" skate.

The Short Track Skate.  Again, there are many varieties.  Most of them share a few things in common: higher ankle support and adjustable offset blades (to the left, or inside of the turn) to keep the boot from rubbing the ice when leaning into the left turn at high speed. Notice the left offset on the pair at right, and the adjustable blade mount below.

111.12 Meter Short Track Diagram with measurements
This page began as a simple description of the difference between the tracks for Long and Short Track.  It has evolved into a many hours long attempt to explain, simply, the difference between the two separate disciplines (actually three, with 2 for Long Track).  Such is not an easy task, with all of the variables involved.  I have purposely skipped safety equipment of Short Track, due to lack of time and planning. I will get back to this page in the future, to make improvements.  Stay tuned. Comments?  Positive or Negative, Email me: Jerry Search

Note:  The Track illustrations took hours to create.  Please don't steal them!  You are more than welcome to "link" to this page instead.  If you must use just the illustration, please give credit and a link to my website, "A Picture Guide to Speed Skating" (http://www.socalspeedskating.org).  You are even welcome to print this page for a handout, as long as you include the credit to my website.  Thank you!  JS

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February 2, 1999

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