Sunday, January 6, 2002
Updated: January 8, 1:07 AM ET
By ESPN.com news services
Olympic competition dates:
Women: Catriona Le May Doan is the sprint favorite, while Anni Friesenger of Germany could take three gold medals at the longer distances after winning 500, 1,500 and 3,000-meter races at European championships. Jennifer Rodriguez and Chris Witty are the American hopefuls.
Women: The Chinese and Koreans have the strongest teams on the women's side. Defending Olympic champion and World Cup champion Kim Dong-Sung of South Korea, who will be 22 on the first day of the games, is expected to win more than one medal. Amy Peterson, a three-time Olympic medalist, heads the American women. China's women include two skaters with the same name -- Yang Yang. They are unrelated. Bulgaria's Evgenia Radanova will challenge.
The finer points
At the start, four racers line up side by side, but they can pass at any time. If a skater in front raises the upper body creating an opening, it is permissible to pass on the inside. However, pushing results in disqualification. Skaters are penalized for causing a crash.
One of the most exciting events is the relay. Each team consists of four members. The same skater must skate the final two laps, but otherwise team members can trade off at any time in any order. Changeovers can occur anywhere on the course by touch or push. Usually the successor starts picking up speed in the inner zone, then moves onto the track at the right moment to get a push from behind.
Long track: This is the speedskating of Eric Heiden, Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen. Skaters race the clock using long, graceful and powerful strides around a 400-meter double track.
This will be the second Olympics that the "clap" skate will be in use. Developed in the Netherlands, the skate has a normal-size blade and boot. But the blade is hinged at the toe, allowing the full runner to stay in contact with the ice as the skater glides, increasing the force on the track. As the blade comes back in contact with the heel of the boot, it makes a ratcheting "clap-clap-clap," a distinct departure from the whispering brush of traditional skates.
Some of the athletes who learned to skate on the older model have had difficulty adjusting to the new form of skate despite its use by the elite skaters for the past five years.