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The secret to winning a short track speed skating race

Speed skating legend Apolo Ohno explains his “perfect race.”

Laura Bult came to the video team via Vox’s Netflix show, Explained , and previously worked on documentary series for National Geographic and Zero Point Zero Production.

To the layperson, watching a short track speed skating race is awe-inspiring — but it’s also difficult to decipher the strategy guiding all the jostling around the rink. Behind the superhuman turns and sprints are calculated moves to control the pack and finish on the podium.

Apolo Ohno is probably being humble when he says he was not the fastest skater when he entered the 500m short track finals at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. But he makes that claim to emphasize the strategy — and the little bit of luck — that played into his gold medal win. That’s why he has always referred to that event as the “perfect race” in short track speed skating.

You can find this video and the entire library of Vox’s videos on YouTube.

Further reading:

I learned a lot from retired US Olympic speed skater John Coyle’s website, and I interviewed John for this story.

I also learned a lot from former US Olympic speed skating coach Sue Ellis’s website.

The New York Times covered the way short track speed skaters bodies are shaped, because of the constant counterclockwise turns.

Retired Australian speed skater Steven Bradbury spun off his unlikely gold medal win into both a book and a beer company by the name of “Last Man Standing.”

I interviewed physics professor Rhett Allain about the physics of short track speed skating. He has written for Wired about the sport.

This is the second video in our week of winter sports videos. You can watch the first, about why ski jumpers hold their skis in a V, here.

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