Winter Olympics - Factbox: Short-track speedskating

Reuters - Fri, 05 Feb 19:58:00 2010

Factbox on short-track speedskating ahead of the February 12-28 Vancouver Winter Olympics:

Korea's Si-Bak Sung skates during the 1000m men's final at the short track speed skating World Cup in Quebec City - 0

HISTORY

Short-track, popular in North America throughout the last century, made its debut as a medal sport at the 1992 Albertville Games but with only one individual and one relay event for men and women.

The short-track programme was expanded to six events in Lillehammer. Men's and women's 1,500 metres were added in Salt Lake City in 2002 to make eight events.

The strongest nations are Canada, South Korea, United States, Japan and Italy.

EVENTS

Short track is an elimination event, held on a 111.12m oval with no lanes, in which competitors race in packs in a series of heats featuring four or six skaters at a time. Individual competitions begin with 32 athletes. The first two across the line advance to the next round, regardless of their time.

Men and women race the 500, 1,000 and 1,500m and in a relay.

500m: All-out sprint over four-and-a-half laps featuring four racers at a time. A good start is vital as passing at speed is difficult.

1,000m: Nine laps. Four skaters at a time start out slowly and build up to top speed for the final two or three laps. A very tactical event.

1,500m: This requires great stamina as the heats, semi-finals and final are staged on the same day. Six skaters race at a time, over 13.5 laps.

Relays: The men race a 5,000m relay (45 laps of the oval) and the women 3,000m (27 laps) with each member of the four-person team usually sprinting one-and-a-half or two laps at a time. Changeovers between athletes are permitted at high speed and are executed by an obvious touch anywhere on the body. The final exchange must begin in an area before the finish line with two laps to go. If a racer falls, a team mate can take over as long as the skaters touch. Semi-finals and the final are held on different days.

2006 CHAMPIONS

Men

500m: Apolo Anton Ohno (U.S)

1,000m: Ahn Hyun-soo (South Korea)

1,500m: Ahn Hyun-soo (South Korea)

5,000m relay: South Korea (Song Seog-u, Seo Ho-jin,

Lee Ho-seok, Ahn Hyun-soo)

Women

500m: Wang Meng (China)

1,000m: Jin Sun-yu (South Korea)

1,500m: Jin Sun-yu (South Korea)

3,000m relay: South Korea (Byeon Cheon-sa, Choi

Eun-kyung, Jeon Da-hye, Jin Sun-yu)

VENUE

Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, where figure skating is also being held. The venue holds 14,200 spectators.

WATCH OUT FOR

American Apolo Anton Ohno, the Olympic 500m champion, can become the most decorated Olympic short track speed skater if he wins one more medal. He already has two gold, one silver and two bronzes and will look to capitalise on the absence of South Korea's Ahn Hyun-soo, who won three golds in Turin but has failed to qualify for Vancouver after an injury layoff.

Canadian Charles Hamelin, world-record holder in the 1,000m and world 500m champion, will have the advantage of home support and should give Ohno and South Korea's Lee Ho-suk a run for their money.

In the women's events, Olympic 500m champion and world record holder Meng Wang of China is the one to beat.

Follow the Winter Olympics 24/7 on British Eurosport (Sky 410 / Virgin 521) and Eurosport HD (Sky 412) British Eurosport channels are streamed online via the Eurosport Player.

Reuters

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