Competition - Speed Skating

Speed Skating before 1937

International Skating Union of America

In 1891, the International Skating Union of America was established. Divided into various regional associations, this organization's purpose was to establish rules and regulations for both ice and roller skating. The association held championships for both figure and speed skating, but the speed competitions were more popular.
The organization also tried to change the image of speed speaking from that of a rowdy event to that of a legitimate competitive sport. For example, its rules did not allow pushing or tripping of other skaters which had taken place during some earlier races.

Speed Skating Troupes

In the first half of the twentieth century, some skaters formed skating troupes that would travel the country performing racing exhibitions. Many skaters started out with these troupes before racing solo on the professional speed skating circuit. One of the more famous of these troupes was formed by Harley Davidson of Minnesota. The Harley Davidson Professional Speed Skating Troupe was formed in 1911, and the members toured for a year before they split up to skate as individuals.

Popular Appeal

The public swarmed to see the professional tours and competitions. Attendance often reached well above 14,000. Every large arena was used, with some of the most notable rinks in the country such as the Riverview Rink in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, hosting numerous championships. Sporting pages of all the metropolitan dailies carried accounts of the professional meets, as well as information about skaters.

Endurance Races

One popular aspect of professional speed skating was the skaters' participation in marathon endurance events. The race was so grueling that afterward, the skaters who had participated agreed to never skate a 24-hour individual race again. They decided to limit individual races to twelve hours and use teams for any longer races.
Skaters also competed in races that lasted for more than one day. In 1929, a six-day relay race was held at Madison Square Garden in New York. The three-man teams skated non-stop from June 11 to 16. In 1932 a 21-day relay race was held at Dreamland Rink in Newark New Jersey. The race was declared over after 19 days due to snow on the outdoor track.

End of an era

By 1920 many of the skaters began leaving or had left the professional speed tour. Many, like Roland Cioni and Freed Martin, turned to rink management and staff positions, often in the very rinks where they used to compete. Others, like Harley Davidson, turned to giving exhibition performances in the vaudeville as well as fancy roller skating circuits. By 1930 the era of the professional speed skating circuit had ended.

Speed Skating since 1937

The first National Amateur Championships

In 1937, the first official United States Amateur Speed Skating Championships were held at the Arena Gardens in Detroit, Michigan. The inter-city Women's Amateur Speed Skating Championships were both held at this time. For both championships, the winner was determined on the basis of a point system. For each event, the winner received thirty points, the second place finisher received twenty, and the third place finisher received ten. The men competed in five events and the women competed in three.

It was at this event that seventeen rink owners formed the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSROA). The purpose of the organization was to promote roller skating business and sport throughout America. The RSROA began holding national amateur championships in 1938.

Inline Speed Skating

Speed skating was traditionally done on quad skates, but when inline skates became available in the 1990s, speed skaters began using them. Inline skates provide skaters with more speed because they are lighter and more aerodynamic than quad skates. The clear dominance of inline skates over quad skates led USA Roller Sports, the national governing body for roller skating, to create a separate division for the two types of skating, and in 1996 separate national championships were established.

Inline skates were introduced to international speed skating in 1992. Now they are the only type of skates allowed in international competitions sponsored by the Federation International de Roller Skating.

Indoor Speed Skating

Indoor speed competitions take place on 100 meter tracks, and they include both individual and rely events. The competitors' divisions and the distance that they skate are determined by age groups.

In individual events, elimination heats are skated, followed by semi-finals. After this, six skaters remain to stake in the finals. The winner of the division is the skater who earns the most points in the finals of the various events.

Rely speed races were added to the National Championships in the early 1950s. Relays are skated by teams of either two or four skaters. Two-person teams can be two men, two women, or mixed, and four person teams can be four men, four women, or mixed. The overall distance of the race and the number of laps by each team member are determined by the age and gender of the skaters.

Outdoor Speed Skating

Outdoor speed skating includes both road racing and track racing. A road race is skated either on a closed loop with no bank on either side, or on a closed stretch of road. Track races are held on closed, oval tracks with banked corners. These tracks are usually 200 meters long. As in indoor competitions, skaters earn points as they skate a variety of distances, and the skater with the most points becomes the champion. Therefore, in order to be successful, skaters must be consistently good at many different distances.

Racing Skates

Racing skates are designed somewhat differently than recreational skates. One difference is that the boots are cut lower at the cuff. This allows for the deep knee bend and forward shin flex that are part of the proper racing technique. Indoor racers sometimes prefer higher-cut boots because of the extra support that they provide when making tight turns, but outdoor skaters usually use lower-cut boots.
Racing skates are also designed to fit extremely snugly. The boots are molded to each individual skater's feet, so that the skates can react immediately to a change in the skater's foot position. Because of this tight fit, skaters usually do not wear socks while racing.

National Museum of Roller Skating Audio Tour - Museum Proper
  1. The First Roller Skates
  2. Patented Roller Skates
  3. The Father of the Modern Roller Skating
  4. Rinking
  5. The "Newest" Craze
  6. The Disco Era
  7. Pop Culture! Skating in Lines: Roller Skating and Comics
  8. Pop Culture! Orchestras, Organs, & Disco: Music in the Rink
  9. Pop Culture! Movies: Roller Skating Across the Silver Screen
  10. Competition: The History of Hockey on Wheels
  11. Competition - Speed Skating
  12. Competition - Dance Skating
  13. Competition - Figure Skating
  14. Competition - Derby
  15. C. W. Lowe's Tent Rink
  16. When Skating Goes to War
  17. Skating for Others
  18. Roller Skating Car Hops
  19. Jam Skating
  20. Extravaganza on Wheels: The Skating Vanities
  21. Vaudeville