Speed skating terms: Glossary for Olympic speed skating


The straight section of the track in which the skaters change lanes every lap to even out the distance traveled. Skaters are required to stay in their lanes and may not cross lane markers except along the backstretch of each lap.


Barriers placed on the track indicating the boundaries in which skaters must stay. Competitors must skate outside the blocks during the entire race, although a finger can skim the surface of the ice inside the blocks as long as the skater rounds the blocks.

Clap Skates

First used in Olympic competition at the 1998 Nagano Games, clap skates feature a blade that detaches at the heel, allowing the full length of the blade to remain on the ice. There is a spring-loaded hinge under the ball of the foot to snap (or “clap”) the blade back into its original position. Clap skates are permitted in long track speed skating but not short track for safety reasons.

Cornering Technique

A maneuver in which one arm is swung diagonally to sustain balance and rhythm, while the other arm is swung to obtain maximal speed, or held behind the back to conserve energy. This technique is used to promote high speed and control while turning corners.


The step used by skaters as they negotiate the curves. It involves crossing the outer foot over the inner to help maintain speed and balance – a very difficult maneuver to learn with the long blades of speed skates.


Term used when a skater improperly crosses the path of another skater.

False Start

Starting before the gun sounds to start the race. The offending athlete is disqualified from the race after two false starts.


A basic speed skating maneuver in which the skater swings both arms diagonally across the body to increase or sustain momentum.


The term used for heats in speed skating.


A method of scoring used in speed skating competitions where time equals points. The scoring system is based on time from the 500m event.


A speed skating event of 500m or 1000m.


A basic maneuver in which the skater pushes off the back skate from a standing start and thrusts his or her legs forward using fast, choppy steps.