Wisconsin  Speed Skating


History of Speed Skating

Speed skating began as a rapid form of transportation across frozen lakes and rivers. It made its Olympic debut at the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix, France.

Early Pioneers

The Dutch were arguably the earliest pioneers of skating. They began using canals to maintain communication by skating from village to village as early as the 13th century.  Skating eventually spread across the channel to England, and soon the first clubs and artificial rinks began to form.  Passionate skaters included several kings of England, Marie Anoinette, Napolean III, and German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Hendrick Avercamp's Ijsvermaak/Winter Ice

Early Competition

The first known skating competition is thought to have been held in the Netherlands in 1676.  However, the first official speed skating events were not held untl 1863 in Oslo, Norway.  In 1889, the Netherlands hosted the first World Championships bringing together Dutch, Russian, American, and English teams.

Jaap Eden Dutch cyclist and skater, is by most people associated with the birth of modern speed skating. He became world champion 3 times (1893, 1895 and 1896). His world record 8.37.6 on 5000 meters from Hamar 25 February 1894 was standing for 20 years until finally broken by Oscar Mathisen in Davos 17 January 1914. The Russian Nikolaj Strunnikov went, outside competition, on Febrary 4, 1911 8.37.2 at Frogner during the Norwegian Championship, but this world record was not ratified by ISU until 1967. Eden’s active career was considerably shortened by illness. He died in 1925. (http://evertstenlund.se/eden.htm) author: Nationaal Archief NL 

Olympic History

Speed skating appeared for the first time in 1924 at the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix. Initially, only men were allowed to participate. It was only at the Lake Placid Games in 1932 that women were authorized to compete in speed skating, which was then only a demonstration sport. It was not until the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley that women’s speed skating was officially included in the Olympic programme. 

Speed skaters 1924 Olympics

Julius Skutnabb and Clas Thunberg of Finland who won a combined 8 speedskating medals at the 1924 Olympics in Chamonix.

The events almost always follow the European system, which consists of skaters competing two-by-two.

At the 1932 Olympic Games, the Americans organised American-style events, i.e. with a mass start. This decision brought about a boycott by many European competitors, which allowed the Americans to win the four gold medals. This system would give birth to short-track speed skating, which was added to the Olympic programme in Albertville in 1992.

Much of the text on this page was taken from Olympic.org.