Speedskating originated in the Netherlands as far back as the 13th century. It is one of six sports to appear in every Olympic Winter Games. Speedskating was first contested as a men’s-only event at the first Winter Olympics in 1924. The women’s events were added at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley.
Speedskating competitions typically always follow the European system where two skaters compete against each other. To gain as much ground as possible with each stride, skaters crouch so that their stomachs and thighs are nearly touching. Special skin-tight suits also help to cut down air resistance.
The greatest single feat in Winter Olympic history was made by Eric Heiden when he won gold medals for all five speedskating events at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.