Low-altitude Olympic venues lessen chances for speedskating world records, pose challenges

February 10, 2014 by Tracy James

Speedskating fans should expect to see few new world records at the Winter Games. Despite improvements in technology and the training levels of the athletes, speedskating competitors in Sochi, Russia, will face off at sea level, where air resistance is enough to slow times compared to races held at higher altitudes.

"All the in speedskating were set at Olympics or events that were held at altitude, like Salt Lake City or Calgary, where there is less air resistance slowing the skaters down," said Robert Chapman, whose research at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington includes performance issues at altitude. "Usually, we think that altitude makes you slower, and that is true for distance running, but not for 'high velocity' events like speedskating. At lower altitudes, air resistance is a greater factor than the lower oxygen delivery to the muscles."

The air resistance also affects athletes in skill sports, requiring competitors in sports such as figuring skating, ski jumping and snowboarding to retool highly technical moves to accommodate more or less for . This year some events, such as figureskating, hockey and speedskating, will take place at , while others, such as the biathlon and skiing events, will take place at higher altitudes.

"After thousands upon thousands of moves, certain motor patterns become ingrained for athletes," Chapman said. "A different altitude will change the feedback they get from balance and proprioception. It's something that needs to be incorporated into their practices."

Explore further: Winter Olympics: Altitude affects skill sports, not just endurance events

Related Stories

Winter Olympics Science Notes: Skate Blades

February 26, 2010

The skates matter. The figure skaters competing in the women's long program tonight at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics would never be able to complete the jumps and spins needed to win gold if they wore speed skates.

Image: NASA satellite eyes Sochi Olympic sites

February 7, 2014

It's not often that the Winter Olympic Games come with an ocean view, but that's what we are getting this year at the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia. Sochi is the warmest city ever to host the winter games, which officially ...

Recommended for you

The culinary habits of the Stonehenge builders

October 13, 2015

A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls – a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.