USARS speed skating is a non-contact sport, requiring skaters to display their skills to maneuver cleanly through the pack and into winning position. Skaters are disqualified for pushing, blocking, forcing another racer out of position, or using their arms, legs, or hands in any way that impedes the progress of other competitors. For added safety, skaters are also required to wear approved helmets during competition.
Speed skating, like other organized sports, requires skaters to be disciplined as they train and compete in an effort to attain peak performance. The benefits, however, go beyond winning. Skaters learn the importance of teamwork, of being persistent and organized, and of setting and reaching goals. It builds health, strength, and discipline. Speed skaters also learn to value good sportsmanship. Although the sport is at home in a variety of locales, the two basic divisions are for indoor and outdoor events.
Indoor Speed Skating
Indoor skating, a variation characteristic of competition in the United States, uses a 100-meter oval track in individual and relay events. In both events, the age groups determine distances and divisions. In individual events, champions are determined by the points they earn in the final races of each distance skated. Relay events, either for two or four skaters, single gender or mixed, give teams of skaters the opportunity to combine their skills against other relay contestants. USARS conducts separate national competitions for quad (traditional 4-wheel skates) and inline roller skates.
Outdoor Speed Skating
Outdoor speed skating, the recognized international standard, is categorized into road and track racing. Road race courses usually take the form of an irregular closed loop with no bank on either side, or an actual stretch of closed road. These courses require constant power, with little or no opportunity to coast, so endurance is a key factor in success. Track races, however, are on a closed, oval course usually measuring 200 meters and featuring banked sides. The home track for outdoor speed skating in the United States is near the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Outdoor racing is almost exclusively performed on inline skates.
Inline Speed Skates
Inline skates have a permanent home in speed skating events throughout the country. Not only are they popular among recreational skaters, the design's dominance over traditional quad skates in speed skating competitions has prompted USARS to create separate divisions in sanctioned meets. Recognizing its impact on the sport, USARS also successfully lobbied the Federation Internationale de Roller Sports to permit inline skates in international competition. Inline skates made their debut at the 1992 World Speed Championships and quads have since disappeared from the event.