From skiing, skeleton and luge to a sport that literally has the word speed in its title, here is how fast Olympians will be going at the Winter Olympics.
Cold is one of the first words that come to mind when someone is asked to describe the Winter Olympics. But here’s another: speed. Here is a look at some of the fastest speeds in various Winter Olympics sports.
How fast do these skaters go? Looking at the world records can give you a good idea.
The record for men in the 500 meters, which is the shortest race, is 33.61 seconds. That was set in 2019, according to Guinness World Records. That makes the average speed 33.3 mph. The men’s 1,000-meter world record is 1:05.69 set in 2020. Since the skater spends more time closer to full speed than accelerating from a dead stop, that brings the average speed up to 34.1 mph.
The world record for women’s 500-meter speedskating is 41.936 seconds (26.7 mph) set in 2019. For 1,000 meters, it’s 1:11.69 (31.2 mph) also set in 2019.
But because of wind resistance and the turns on a skating oval, skaters can’t reach their maximum possible speed. Dutch skater Kjeld Nuis, a two-time gold medalist, took on this challenge in 2018 with Red Bull. Nuis skated at full speed on a long, outdoor straightaway. In front of him was a pickup that was pulling a large windshield meant to eliminate any wind resistance. Nuis reached a speed of 57.788 mph.
Short Track Speedskating
It’s roughly the same deal as above, but with two differences. The oval is smaller and instead of each skater getting their own lane, all the skaters jockey for position as they round the track. The shorter straightaways and traffic navigation mean slower speeds.
The 500-meter world record time for men is 39.5 seconds (28.3 mph). The women’s 500-meter world record is 41.9 seconds (26.7 mph).
The catch with Alpine skiing, whether it’s downhill, slalom, giant slalom or super-G, is that no two courses are exactly the same, so there’s no true world or Olympic record time. Also, weather conditions can factor into a skier’s speed.
The Olympics website said skiers regularly reach speeds of up to 95 mph. In 2013, French skier Johan Clarey reached 100.6 mph in a World Cup downhill race.
While it’s not an Olympic sport, Italian speed skier Ivan Origone set a world record of 158.4 mph in 2016. The record happened at the Vars ski resort in France and Origone was not having to navigate turns or gates. He was going down a straight hill.
You can watch the video of his run here. When you see the graphic on screen that says Origone hit 254,958 kilometers per hour, that’s not a typo. In Europe, they use commas instead of decimal points.
Snowboard events like halfpipe, big air and slopestyle are more about tricks than about speed. But snowboard cross and parallel giant slalom are about speed. Snowboard cross (and ski cross) competitors reach top speeds around 60 mph, according to an analysis by The Washington Post in 2014.
Just as Ivan Origone did on a pair of skis, Edmond Plawczyk of France set a world record at Vars in 2015 with a speed of 126.309 mph. But he had a little help. A pair of wind fins were attached to his legs to help with the aerodynamics.
Bobsled, Luge and Skeleton
Just as with skiing, no two sliding tracks for bobsled, luge and skeleton are alike, so there is no world or Olympic record in terms of time.
The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said bobsleds can reach speeds up to 93.2 mph.
Skeleton riders can reach speeds above 80 mph while luge sleds can eclipse 90 mph according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
Bobsled speeds at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver were clocked as high as 95 mph.
Try this sometime. Strap on a pair of skis, slide down a long, roughly 35-degree downslope, fly off the edge and soar through the air high above the ground before landing on a downhill slope. The Smithsonian said speeds at takeoff reach 56 mph.
Fun fact: While the casual fan may think ski jump hills curve up at the takeoff point, they don’t. It’s actually still a downhill slope of roughly 10%, depending on the structure.