The roots of ice skating date back over 1,000 years to the frozen canals and waterways of Scandinavia and the Netherlands when men laced animal bones to their footwear and glided across frozen lakes and rivers.
Credit for the first pair of all-iron skates goes to a Scotsman who invented them in 1592. The iron blade accelerated the spread of speed skating and in 1642 the Skating Club of Edinburgh was formed. In 1763 the world's first organized speed skating race, which covered a distance of slightly more than 24 kilometres, was held on the Fens in England.
Eventually, the fledgling sport found its way to North America, where a lighter, sharper and longer all-steel blade was first produced in 1850. In 1889, the Dutch organized the first world championship with skaters covering four distances — 500m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m. The International Skating Union (ISU) was formed in the Netherlands in 1892. Canada's first recorded ice skating race took place on the St. Lawrence River in 1854 when
three British army officers raced from Montréal to Québec City. Speed skating races became a regular feature of winter life; and by 1887 the Amateur Skating Association of Canada, the young country's first sport association, was formed.
Olympic speed skating, or long track as it is known today, made its debut at the first Winter Olympics in 1924 in Chamonix, France, and it has been a highlight of the Games ever since. Early Olympic competition was dominated by the Finns and Norwegians; however, the Americans invariably provided stiff competition. Canada's first Olympic speed skating medals were won in 1932 in Lake Placid. The medal count was one silver and four bronze for the men while the women, competing in demonstration events, captured one gold and two silver medals.
For more speed skating history, visit the “About Speed Skating” section of the Speed Skating Canada website at www.speedskating.ca