Short track is a discipline of speedskating and is contested in indoor rinks on a 111-meter track, about the size of an international hockey rink. A pack of four to six skaters race against each other, rather than the clock, making for fast and thrilling races.
Winners are determined by order of finish. Falls are not uncommon, but there are strict guidelines on passing an opponent, and pushing and shoving is not allowed. Much like basketball, though, there is battling for position. A competitor can fall without penalty, but it is typically not possible to come back and win after a fall. Because of the small track and sharp turns, the walls of the rink are padded to minimize injuries.
Each nation is permitted six speedskaters, depending on how the individual team did at a qualifying event in the Netherlands in early November. If the team had two skaters finish in the top 20, then the individual team could place four skaters in the Olympics, three of which could participate in any individual event. The host nation, Japan, and seven other teams also qualified for the relay teams and have to use the skaters that qualified from the individual tournament.
Short-track speedskating in the Olympics has preliminary rounds, semifinals and finals, where skaters are grouped into groups of four or six. The top two in each round advance to the next level.
One of the most exciting events is the relay. Each team is made up of four members. The same skater must skate the final two laps, but otherwise team members can trade off at any time in any order. Changeovers can occur anywhere on the course by touch or push. Usually the successor starts picking up speed in the inner zone, then moves onto the track at the right moment to get a push from behind.
Critical Moment: When the starter's gun fires, short-track speedskaters sprint for the small rubber cone marking the first turn. The objective is to take the lead at the first turn and keep it; this causes skaters to fall in behind the leader and have to begin planning passing strategy.
First-turn hazards: Disqualification for charging! Referee stands inside the track watching for violations.
Inside charge: Skater interferes with another skater while passing to the left. Outside charge: Interference while passing to the right.