Long track speed skating is one of the few sports which was always included in the Olympic program since the inaugural Winter Games in Chamonix, France. The other sports are nordic skiing, ice hockey and figure skating, with the last two already featuring at the Olympic Summer Games before the separate Winter Games were introduced in 1924.
From 5 to 14
The Olympic long track program has evolved from 5 events in 1924 to 14 events in 2022. The first seven Winter Games were men’s only in speed skating. Women speed skating made its first appearance at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley, USA.
At the first Winter Games in Chamonix medals were awarded in the 500m, 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m events. There was also an allround gold medal for the combined classification.
US speed skater Charles Jewtraw won the very first winter Olympic gold medal in the 500m, but Clas Thunberg (FIN) was the king of the oval in Chamonix.
The Finnish legend won the 1500m, the 5000m and also became the first and the last speed skater to ever win the Olympic allround classification, which was removed from the program after 1924.
Thunberg still tops the all-time medal table for men’s speed skating at the Olympic Games, with a total of five gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
Eric Heiden (USA), who became the most prolific speed skater at a single Olympic
Winter Games, winning all five male events at the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, comes second.
Wüst wants to write history
When women speed skating was introduced at the 1960 Games, Soviet speed skater Lidiya Skoblikova immediately put her name on top the all-time medal table, and she has stayed on top ever since.
Skoblikova took 1500m and 3000m gold in Squaw Valley and went on to win all four women events (500m, 1500m, 3000m, 5000m) at the Innsbruck Games in 1964.
Ireen Wüst (NED) won a total of 11 Olympic medals (5 gold, 5 silver and 1 bronze), but she’s still one gold medal short of Skoblikova’s six. The Dutch skater is planning to write a new chapter in speed skating history at the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Apart from adding women, the speed skating program hardly changed over the first eight decades of Olympic speed skating, with the men and women skating classical distances (500m, 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m for the men, and 500m, 1500m, 3000m and 5000m for the women).
In 1976 the 1000m was added to the male program, and twelve years later the women also competed in the 1000m, making up a program of five classical distances for both genders.
It was not until the 2006 Games in Torino, that another event was added to both the men’s and women competition: the team pursuit. Home skaters Matteo Anesi, Stefano Donagrandi, Enrico Fabris and Ippolito Sanfratello won the first gold medal in the men’s event, while Germany’s Daniela Anschütz-Thoms, Anni Friesinger, Lucille Opitz, Claudia Pechstein and Sabine Völker were crowned the women team pursuit champions. The event has featured in the program ever since.
The last addition to the Olympic program was the mass start at the 2018 PyeongChang Games, with home skater LEE Seung-Hoon (KOR) winning the men’s gold and Nana Takagi (JPN) taking the honor in the women event.
Beijing 2022 features the same 14 events as four years ago in PyeongChang.