It's new, it's fast and it’s ferocious. In 2019 the Team Sprint made its debut on the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships program.
Like most other Speed Skating events, the Team Sprint event is a time trial race. Two teams of three Skaters start on opposite sides of the track, with start and finish at the 1000m line, halfway down the straight. Teams wear colored arm bands, usually numbered 1 to 3, in order to identify the Skaters’ position in the race. The race is only three laps which makes it fast and very exciting to watch. The team with the fastest time wins the race.
Team Russia at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating (POL) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
The race starts out as a trio but the lead-out skater leaves the track after one lap, the second in line leads for another full lap, before leaving it up to the third skater to sprint it out on their own to finish the race.
Team Italy at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating (POL) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
In order to be successful in the Team Sprint, team work is essential. "The beauty of this event is that even if you don't have the fastest Skaters individually, you can still compete for the title” commented Janine Smit, first World Team Sprint Champion with Letitita de Jong and Jutta Leerdam (NED).
The Dutch Ladies also know the importance of tactics and knew which mistakes not to make. "If the gap is too big at the start, the second and third Skater have to work too hard to catch up” continued Smit. It's all about leading-out the third skater as quick and as effortless as possible. "I built up speed moderately to make it easy on Jutta for a strong second lap. Jutta is tall, so Letitia can make perfect use of her draft to finish it off well."
Team Russia at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating (CAN) 2017©International Skating Union (ISU)
The Team Sprint was introduced to the ISU World Cup Speed Skating program in the 2014/15 season as a demonstration event, and was officially included into the program in 2016/17. The current world record holders in this discipline were achieved in 2017 by the Russian Ladies Angelina Golikova, Olga Fatkulina and Elizaveta Kazelina with a time of 1:24.84, and Canada's Laurent Dubreuil, Vincent de Haître and Gilmore Junio hold the Men's world record in 1:17.31.
Team Russia at the ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships (GER) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)
Although the Russian Men were considered as one of the favorites to take the first World Team Sprint title, they faltered just behind the Netherlands, "we missed our man for the third lap," explained Russia's second Skater Pavel Kulizhnikov, referring to the absent Denis Yuskov, who was preparing for his individual 1000m and 1500m races at the 2019 World Single Distances Championships.
Kjeld Nuis (NED) was responsible for hammering out the final lap for the Dutch in Inzell, and the Olympic 1000m and 1500m Champion insisted that he couldn't have won without the preparatory work and blind trust he puts into his team-mates Ronald Mulder and Kai Verbij. "You constantly have to pay attention to what your team-mates are doing. That's the beauty and that's what makes it difficult too. When you skate alone, you can look into the corners, but sitting behind your team-mates' backs in the Team Sprint it's like going into the corner blindfolded. You really have to trust one another."
Kjeld Nuis (NED) at the ISU World Cup Speed Skating (NED) 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)
The Team Sprint is loved by Skaters and fans alike, and Nuis sees an Olympic future for the discipline: "this is an awesome event. It's spectacular because there's more Skaters on the track at the same time and it's superfast. Yes, I like it a lot and I certainly hope that this event will become Olympic in the future."