Speed skating

Friesland short track racing

Competition skating may be from Friesland origin. Through the ages strong riders
challenged others to measure their abilities. Thus short track racing became a popular pastime in the Netherlands and particularly in the province of Friesland. These races were held on two parallel tracks of 60-80 meters long and 3-4 meters wide. Longer distances were skated by changing lanes at the end of the tracks. This kind of speed skating probably dates from the 16th or 17th age and is thought to be introduced in England round 1650 when Charles I asked the Dutch to apply their knowledge of reclaiming land from the fen- and marshlands around The Wash. Old engravings make clear that these contests concerned large events. It is known that as early as 1805 championships were organised not only for men but for women as well. In Friesland this kind of speed skating is still popular.

International contests
In the course of the 19th century speed skating evolved in all countries with a skating tradition. The first international contests were held in Brooklyn (USA) in 1884 and were won by a European, the Norwegian Alex Paulsen. Until 1890 all international contests were based on drop out systems but from then on important races took place against the clock. From the end of the 19th century these competitions have taken place on endless oval tracks of 400 meters. Initially always outdoor but from the sixties of the 20th century indoor as well. Speed skating is practised on a regional, national, European, world and Olympic level. In championship competition for men rankings exist for 500, 1000, 1500, 3000, 5000 and 10000 metres as well as for all round performance. For women there are rankings for 500, 1500, 3000 and 5000 metres as well as for all round performance.

International long track racing
From 1884 international contests have been organized. In the beginning the winners were called 'masters'. After the establishment of the International Skating Union (ISU) in 1893 these contests were called 'official' and the winner was honoured with the title of world champion. The first world champion was a Dutch rider by the name of Jaap Eden who defended his title successfully the following three years. Though there were two more world champions of Dutch origin (1905 and 1961) speed skating was merely a Scandinavian-Russian matter until 1966 when the Dutch entered the scene again and controlled it for a long time. It is interesting to notice that at present speed skating is much more international then before with participants that come from countries as the USA, Japan, Korea, China et cetera.
The ISU introduced standardized oval tracks of 400 meters that made the results internationally comparably. A further improvement was the building of indoor ovals from circa 1960 that made the results independent of climatic circumstances. They made the races more predictably but the sometimes heroic character of the races due to piercing cold and snow blasts was over. At present long track racing is done at a local, regional, national, European, world and Olympic level. Championships are organized for distances of
500, 1000, 1500, 3000, 5000 and 10000 meters for men and of 500, 1000, 1500, 3000 en 5000 meter for women. For both men and women also dedicated championships are held for sprinters and all-rounders. The sprinters ride two races of 500 and 1000 meters; the all-round rankings are based on tournaments of 500, 1500, 5000 and 10000 meters for men and 500, 1000, 3000 and 5000 meters for women. The rankings are based on a system of points based on the individual time that was made at the distance of 500 meters. The rider with the fewest points becomes champion.

International short track racing
It is interesting to notice that in 1978 from traditional speed skating a new kind of speed skating competition has emerged which has familiarities with the traditional Friesland short track racing but is done on indoor ovals of 110 meters. This means more or less skating a continuous curve at top speed whereby often a hand on the ice is needed to prevent from falling. Speeds of 50 km/h are normal and as the riders skate in the same track the chance of injuries is rather great. Therefore it is obligatory for the riders to wear a helmet and often other safety attributes are used as well. It is a spectacular sport for both individuals and teams over distances of 500, 1000 and 1500 meters. For this type of skating a special heavy model of the Norwegian type of ice skates is used with runner blades that are very much alike those of figure skates.

Dutch super sprint races
From 1990 in the Netherlands super sprint races are held. They consist of two races over 100 and 300 meters. This kind of speed skating is still in development but on its way to maturity. The Dutch are hoping that international appreciation is not far away.

Racing skates
In ancient times most touring skates were used for short course skating as well. As with short-course skating gliding is not a mayor requirement and sturdy skates with short necks were considered best. Better skaters used special short necked skates of the Holland and Friesland model. Nowadays the fighting cocks use a special low model of the Norwegian model racing skates.
From the beginning competitors in speed skating contests at the 400-meters oval courses have made use of Norwegian model racing skates characterised by runner blades that have been fixed in circular tubes. Platforms on stanchions allow to stand high over the ice and the boots have been riveted to the skates for maximum control.
During the last decade there have been a lot of experiments with this type of skate by Dutch manufacturers to make them faster and faster. Use was made of ceramic material for the blades, thermoplastic for the shoes, scissor and clapping mechanisms and most recently of computer chips.

Scientific approach
In the second half of the 20th century scientists also became interested in skating and studied the ice conditions, aero dynamical circumstances (skates, suits, postures), skating techniques and physical conditions. This has had impressive effects on the development of the record times set. It seems possible to decrease the skating times endlessly, though common sense tells us that they never will reach to zero.



Dutch handbook
for speed skaters



traditional Friesland model
of speed skates



traditional Holland model
of speed skates



improved model of
Friesland speed skates



Friesland speed skates
based on the improved
Friesland model
and the Norwegian model
of speed skates
with metal tubes



simple full metal model
of Friesland speed skates based on the
Norwegian model



Dutch speed skates
based on the
Norwegian model



Dutch clap skates



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