Winter Olympics: Speed Skating

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The Independent Online
WITH Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Norwegians, Dutch, Germans and Canadians all talking up their medal chances, this is the one event at the Games which has a global feel.

Despite the fact that television will show two people skating round a circuit as fast as they can, these are not races, they are time trials. Everyone races against the clock, the men at distances from 500m to 10,000m, the women from 500-5,000m.

Most neutrals will hoping that the sprints prove third time lucky for the fastest man on ice, the American Dan Jansen (500m in just over 35 seconds). Favourite in each of the last two Games, he suffered tragedy in 1988 when his sister died on the eve of his race and sporting disaster on the idiosyncratic outdoor ice at Albertville.

The locals will rely on Johann Olav Koss in the longer distances. Bonnie Blair, of America, tops the women's sprint rankings, while the German Gunder Nieman defends her 3,000m and 5,000m titles. Watch out for the Dutchman Rintje Ritsma, who plans to race with hi-tech skates and expects them to have the same effect as the Lotus bicycle for Chris Boardman. There are no British entries.