Monday, January 06, 2014

Olympic Trials - Speed Skating

Julie and I joined up with Greg, Miriam, Bill and Loris for a trip down to SLC to watch the speed skating Olympic trials.  They've been going on for about a week, with each day running a different event.  What we saw was the 1000m men's and women's short track.
When Americans think short track, they often think of Apolo Ohno. Short track usually involves four skaters zipping around a tiny oval, often inches from one another.  Its is more exciting than the slower, less chaotic long track, but it seems to me that involves a bit more luck and not just strength and skill.
The athletes have to compete quite a few times.  They start with four-man heats, where the leading two go on to the next heat.  You do that over and over until you have the final four. Then it is winner take all.
For the 1000m distance, they often start out slow and build up to a frenetic finish.  However, it can be whatever any one member of the heat wants it to be.  If you don't have that blasting speed for the finish, you can go out fast and hope to tire everyone else out.   Most of the early laps look very organized, like the photo below.
By the time they get near the end of the race, all hell can break loose.  In this case, the guy in the blue sleeves is about to crash into the protective padding on the outside of the track. Look how close his left hand is to the next skater's razor sharp skate blades.
Passing seems to be difficult. Going wide around someone means you are traveling a longer distance.  They don't give you room to pass on the inside.  That means that most passes seem to come down to picking different lines through the curves.
It is interesting to watch their use of the inside hand.  They frequently touch the ice, especially once they start going fast, but they never appear to be putting any noticeable weight on it.  I would love to chat with one of the athletes and figure out the "best" strategy and technique.

Another close one, but nobody fell.  In fact, it looked like they hardly slowed down.
Not much difference between the men's and women's races.  The women were a hair slower, but it wasn't noticeable. They were equally fun to watch.
This was the men's finals and was by far and away the fastest and most exciting.  They jumped on it right from the start and never slowed down.  There were some impressive passes along the way.
The Olympics start in a few short weeks.  It's getting exciting around here!  This weekend it's the moguls and aerials qualifiers over at Deer Valley.

Like so many of our local sporting events, I encourage everyone to go at least once and see it.  This was the most expensive skating event I have been to, running $8 for adults, less than most movies.  (Of course, we had some free passes....)
Post a Comment