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Introduction to Speed Skating Races - Handbook

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 Thank you, Toronto Speed Skating, for preparing and sharing this document.



You have signed your skater up for their first short track speed skating meet in a Regional, Provincial or Elite meet. We are confident you and your skater will have lots of fun, meet new people and improve their skills.  This booklet contains detailed information that will help you know what to expect and how to prepare your skater for the big day.

If your skater is between the ages 4-9 yrs. a REGIONAL RACE is where you will start. It is an introduction to competition formats and racing skills with the focus on fun. Times are recorded for developmental purposes only with no formal ranking.  If you are 10 years and older and very new to speed skating, a conversation with coach and the registrar will be necessary to see if the regional races are appropriate. Racing is in 3 regions, east, central, and west (+flex regions). Markham is in the Central Region. Skaters must old a CLUB SKATER membership with IceReg.

PROVINCAL RACES for skaters 10-13 yrs. Special Olympic skaters and skaters 13 yrs. and older and who do not meet the Elite Circuit time standard or choose not to skate Elite. These meets are for the development of speed and racing skills. It is an introduction to all-points racing where skaters advance through rounds of heats and final and can include the introduction to relay racing and skate races together on a 100m track. And racing in two regions.  East and West across the province. Markham is in the East Region. Skaters must have a COMPEITIVE SKATER membership with IceReg.

ELITE RACING is province wide racing for skaters 13-29 yrs. Who meet the time standard. These races are for the refinement of racing skills and decision making at high speeds. Racing is province wide. Skaters must have a COMPETITIVE SKATER membership with IceReg.

MASTERS RACING aged 30 + yrs. Racing is usually incorporated into the Provincial Races.  Skater must have a COMPETITIVE SKATER membership with IceReg. Cut Proof suit is strongly recommended.


What to bring to a meet

Mandatory equipment

  • Speed skates with skate guards
  • Helmet (CAS approved) for regional meets
  • Bib-style neck guard
  • Cut and water-resistant gloves
  • Kee pads
  • Shin guards
  • Ankle protection (the yellow or white ankle guards mandatory at practices)
  • Club skin suit or long-sleeved clothing and comfortable pants- Regional races
  • PROVINCIAL RACES – Cut proof suit is strongly recommended
  • ELITE RACES – Cut proof suit is MANDITORY
  • Shatter-resistant protective sport glasses (clear) or a complete visor (note: if your child wears prescription glasses, please check with your optometrist to ensure they are shatter-resistant to meet this requirement
  • Glasses must be held on by an elastic strap


  • All skaters should travel with a copy of their health card number as it may be required in case of an emergency.
  • Should you require any equipment, there are usually vendors present at each meet – you can purchase equipment from them on the day of, but you will need to have it before your child will be allowed on the ice.
  • We highly recommend sharpening skates ahead of the meet, not wating until meet day. If that is not possible and you need to sharpen skates at the meet, there is usually a club owned toolbox with a jig and sharpening stone brought to the meet.


Additional items to Bring

  • A change of skating clothes in case your skater falls (as they will get wet), a towel or a hair dryer to help dry of skin suits in between races)
  • Skaters often like something to keep them warm while waiting to get on the ice for their race. A jacket works well, it keeps them warm and is easy to get on and off and hard to lose. (don’t forget to label these items).

A pair of running shoes that skaters can change into between races (these will also be helpful for dryland warmups).

  • Spare laces (vendor purchase)
  • Clean towel for drying blades
  • Blade socks/soakers
  • Blankets to sit on and to use to keep warm
  • Items to keep skaters busy between races
  • A small cooler/cooler bag filled with nutritious snacks, lunch, and lots of water to stay hydrated

Regional races can be 2- 4 hours in length, so there may not be a designated meal break. Skaters should eat between races, leaving enough time ahead of the next race so their food has tie to digest. Grazing is a best practice rather than a full meal. Always hydrate immediately after a race.

Parents:  please note there is often not enough time to leave the arena once racing starts, so your best bet is to bring packed food with you to the rink. Also, there must be a parent present for all skaters competing – they will need your guidance throughout the day to keep them on schedule.

Provincial and Elite Races are all day, with on ice warm up as early as 0800, racing from 0900- 5 pm. There is a designated lunch period where skaters are to bring their own lunch.



Communication via email the week of the race contains both a

  • distribution list with all the participating skaters by club
  • race groups list which will outline your skater’s assigned racing group Alpha, Beta, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Gulf...
  • program for the day
  • On ice warmups if time permits
  • all the assigned races for the day
  • WhatsApp link, designated for the race day, join soon as possible. Inclement weather or unforeseen events changes that can affect the start time to the race day, will be communicated via WhatsApp from the club hosting the meet.

Regional Meet, each skater typically races 3-4 times final format only and may skate within the same cohort, the same 3 or 4 skaters for every race.

Provincial/Elite Meets:  there are multiple heats and finals for each distance. How many heats/finals depends on the number skaters in each category. Sometimes there will be a “superfinal” held without any heats – check the racing program for the day to see what your skater will be skating.


When you arrive at the rink

Plan to arrive about 30 minutes before the warmups start. Regional meets may not have an on-ice warmup, due to the Speed Skate Ontario recommended 2–4-hours length of time for the meet.

Provincial and Elite meets are a full day event. Most warmups begin at 8 am with the older groups, followed by the younger groups. A safe arrival time is 7:30 am if you aren't sure what group your skater is in or what time their warmup is scheduled prior to the meet start.

There will be signs posted directing you to the change rooms – rooms will be assigned by speed skating club and most change rooms will be shared by several clubs. Your club’s name will be posted on the change room door. Arrive early to secure a good spot in the change room but, be fair and only take up a small amount of space – it is always at a premium. Parents and family members can save seats in the stands, not in the change room. Keep your gear together and tidy and out the way.  Keep valuables with you, don’t leave them in the change rooms.

Review the posted race sheets outside of the change room to confirm which group your skater is in.

Review what time your skater will be on the ice for their warmup.

The official time is the time on the clock at the rink you are skating in – this will be the clock followed for the day’s schedule.

All skate bags and equipment can be left in the change room.  Coolers and other surplus items should be stored at your seats in the stands. This will save space in the change room and help keep food cold throughout the day.

Please get skates and equipment on and off for warm up as quickly as possible as this is the busiest time of the meet and will be the time that you will have the greatest number of skaters in the change room at once.  As your skater will likely be nervous, try to be calm and help them feel prepared in the chaos – this will give them a great start to the day.


What Happens During Warmups

Skaters usually get a 5-7 minute of on ice warmups – they will be arranged in their designated racing groups. The warmup is important as it ensures skaters are ready and confident skating on the ice they will be racing on.

Skates should be ready a few minutes earlier than their scheduled warmup time. They must have all their mandatory equipment on in order to be allowed on the ice.

Having skaters ready ahead of their warmup time allowed them time to watch the warmup ahead of theirs so they can see what to do.  Remind your skater to be careful of the other skates on the ice (there will be a lot of them on at once) and if they want to practice starts, watch the other skaters as they line up at the centre of the rink to do so, not at the start line.

Note:  Regional meets may not offer a on ice warmup.

Once the warmup is done, your skater will be ushered off the ice and they can put their skate guards back on and walk to the change room.  Once in the change room, dry the blades and store skates with blade socks/soakers until their first race. You can do this between races and switch them to the hard skate guards before they leave for each race.

Skaters should also warmup on land before each race.  find an out of the way area to warmup. Have your skater find a fellow club skater to warmup with so they can get their muscles ready to race.


How to Prepare for Racing

How are races structured?

Races occur in order of groups alphabetically, as posted on the race sheets or WhatsApp. Get familiar with the racing schedules posted on WhatsApp and /or posted sheets of paper in a designated spot on a wall, as they will guide you throughout the day.  

REGIONAL MEETS all distances skated are run as finals.

PROVINCIAL AND ELITE meets, each race is a specific distance and will have the group divided into “heats”.

Each series number will be posted on the electronic scoreboard. The series number are listed on the race sheets/WhatsApp so you can follow along and keep track and be aware of the series number of your skater’s next race.   this is really important in case the scoreboard is behind or fails for some reason.  A skater late to their race will NOT be allowed on the ice for that heat/race and will be disqualified for THAT heat/ race.

Don’t rush – be sure to give yourself enough time to get your skater ready. We want you and your skater to not feel stressed before the race.

Your skater should be ready well ahead of their race.  Watch for others in the same group getting ready or pair up with an experienced parent. It is better to be early.


How do points work?

In short track speed skating, points are earned in final races, not in the heats.  The heats determine the final grouping a skater will race. (e.g., A, B, C or D).  “A” finals award the highest number of points, then “B”, then “C”, and so on.   A skater’s accumulated total points from all finals raced in each distances determines their overall placement for that meet.  If you are unsure, ask a fellow experienced parent to help guide you.

There are some variations from meet to meet, but generally skaters will skate a heat and a final race for all but their final distance, in which case a “superfinal” may be held, without a heat in that distance.

REGIONAL RACES, most of the time all distances are finals and skaters will be skating with the same skaters (cohort) for all racing distances.


What is a PB?

A skater’s PBs or “personal best” times are most important.  A personal best time is earned when a skater races a distance faster than they have ever raced that distance before.  Instead of placement in races or medalling at meets, it is important for each skater to focus on earning PBs – these are goals that they should be proud of.


It’s Race Time!

Before racing, skaters are called into a specially arranged area by the Clerk of the Course. This area is called a HEAT BOX, where the skates are organized into their racing groups.

When the skater is ready with all their equipment on, bring them to the Clerk of the Course area.  the Clerk will usually want them there well ahead of their race time to make sure they can put them in order of racing.  The volunteers will take over from there. Be sure your skater knows to speak up when they are called. Their equipment will be checked, and they will not be allowed on the ice if they are missing anything as this would be a forfeit of the race and the skater would be disqualified for improper equipment. It is the skater and parent’s job to make sure they have all mandatory equipment on and are ready to race.  Parents are not allowed in the Clerk of the Course area.  this is not the place for parents to do last minute adjustments or take photographs as it is very crowded, and parents need to trust the volunteers.

It is the job of the marshalling staff to get your racer into the proper heat and on the ice.  Runners with ensure the warm-up jackets and guards are moved to the ice exit area and will have them there waiting for your skater following the race.

Once your skater is in the heat box area, you should find a place in the stands to watch the race.  Parents are not allowed in the heat box or the Clerk of the Course area.

When races are started, it is imperative to have no movement, noises, or flashes in the area around the start. Sudden movements can cause any racer to false start and be penalized. Cameras are fine, but flash photography is not allowed when skaters are racing.

The skaters will be instructed by the starter at the start line. Sometimes the starter will fire a gun, a horn, or an electronic starter with a light - if your child has noise sensitivities, please prepare your child for any of these possibilities.

Have fun racers! This is your time to use the techniques you have learned and compete with other skaters on the ice. Listen for your coaches while you skate – they are giving you information to help you perform your best in the race. Go for personal bests, skate hard and turn left! And smile at the end of your races – you did it!!!

Parents note, should your skater fall ill in the middle of race day or if you have a young skater who will not make it through the entire event, please notify your coach or the Clerk of the Course before you leave the event so your skater can be scratched from the rest of the races.


What is a seed time?

If a skater does not have previously recorded times on the SSO Ranking List, the skater’s coach or meet registrar may submit a time from a practice to suitably seed the skater into racing. All efforts should be made to submit an appropriate seed time for each skater. Skaters that do not have a seed time by the registration deadline will be seeded at the bottom of the group.


What happens after a race?

Once a race is done, the skaters will be ushered off the ice.  They will then put on their skate guards and walk to the change room.  Remove skates and dry blades thoroughly with a clean towel and put on your blade socks/soakers.

We encourage skaters to stay in most of their gear for the day. Just remove skates, helmet, and glasses, but be mostly ready to gear back up again for your next race. This keeps change room time to a minimum and less worry getting fully suited back up again.

Coaches will talk to skaters after each race (they will often seek them out in the change room). This talk is valuable to recap how the race went and get coaching suggestions for the next race. Please make sure your skater has time to debrief with the coach.

If you have questions or concerns about race results, they must go through your coach. Parents and skaters cannot challenge referees or enter the recorder’s office. Only coaches can interact with these groups.

Race results are usually posted on the walls near the spectator area after each race, along with the skater’s position in their next race.

Your skater will probably enjoy watching and cheering on other skaters, but you may need to bring items to entertain the very young skaters.

At the end of a meet, medals are awarded for the top 3 placements in each group at a ceremony held at the rink (either on ice or in a special room - this will be announced at the end of the racing).

The final race protocol (times) is posted on the OSSA website.


Behind the Scenes

As you experience your first meet, you will see lots of volunteers in different roles, helping to make the meet run smoothly. Here is a brief look at the different people you may see:

In the centre of the rink are one, two or three referee(s) with whistles and clipboards. The chief referee is the one in charge who will ensure a fair meet and that rules are followed and applied properly.

The skaters who place the corner blocks, put down water, and squeegee the racing track are the track stewards. Usually there will be about four to six of them on the ice, two or three at each end.

Why the water? At meets the track stewards pour water on the racing track at each end of the arena. This helps repair the ice where it has been worn by previous races. The racing track consists of five different tracks, each about a meter and a half apart up and down the rink. After a few races, the track stewards will move the corner blocks to a new track to spread out the wear. The water makes the racing better and safer. Off ice are some important people keeping those water buckets filled and ready for the track stewards.

On each side of the rink are a whole bunch of people: Usually on the side opposite the stands will be the coaches for the various participating clubs (sometimes as many as ten to twelve of them). You can’t miss them as they cheer and yell out encouragement to skaters.

Right by the finish line are the timers. There is a chief timer along with six to eight other timers. For some meets there are also people running the electronic timing - they will be there in addition to the regular timers.

Beside the timers are the place judges. There is a chief judge and about four to six place judges

Also present are the chief recorder and assistants - their job is to tally and record all the races and racers.

There will also be several runners receiving and posting results. Usually right by the electronic display are the lap counters. This display shows the remaining laps for the lead skater. Lap counters also ring a bell for the beginning of the last lap for the lead skater.

At the start line, often with distinctive orange armbands, are the Starter. Which side of the arena they are on depends on the distance being raced (but the finish is always right in front of the crowd of officials). The starters will call skaters to the start and fire the start gun or electronic starter.

There is the Clerk of the Course and assistants. They are the ones who marshal the skaters into the proper heats, and proper starting line order. They also marshal racers on and off the ice. This is a busy place as many skaters are being arranged into the proper sequence at any time.

The announcer will be walking us through all the races and skaters and keeping us in the loop as to what is going on throughout the day.

Usually, a coach from each club will be at each meet. Coaches come to the meets to help skaters prepare for their race, strategize how to race in different distances and to cheer you on. If you have any questions or problems during a meet, don’t hesitate to talk to your coach.

This does not even cover all the volunteers running other parts of the meet - there will be those helping with set-up and take down, those taking care of feeding all of the volunteers, silent auction volunteers and coordinators, 50/50 draw runners etc. It is a huge undertaking to run a meet.

Please be sure to thank the volunteers if you see them - none of the meets would be possible without them!

Now that you’ve experienced your first meet, please consider at least one member of your family volunteering for the next meet. Please speak with senior members of your club to offer your help next time. It takes a huge number of volunteers to run a successful meet - we cannot do it without the help of parents like you!

A brief summary of some key racing rules

  1. The distances skated are determined by the level of the skaters in a division. The track size varies, with a 100m track for most skaters and an 111m track used for the oldest and fastest skaters. The start line of the race may change for races that have a half-lap in them (e.g. 500 M is 4.5 laps on the 111m track), but the finish will always be in the same place (the side with the single red line). The cones marking the track are periodically moved to protect the ice and so the start line may also move to match the cones to keep the distances skated constant.
  2. Assigned helmet covers must be worn for all races, showing skaters’ a number on both sides of the helmet.
  3. All protective gear must be worn correctly, and bare skin covered, or a skater will be disqualified or barred from skating in the race. Skates must be tied and all bolts tight. Equipment must not be removed until the skater has left the ice.
  4. The skaters first line up behind the blue line at the start of a race. They then move to the start line on the command Go to the Start. Once at the start line, they remain relaxed in a standing position until the starter says Ready. After a pause to allow skaters to take their start position and become still, the starter fires a gun or sounds a tone to start the race. If there is a false start, the starter either fires the gun or sounds a tone a second time or blows a whistle.

Regional: Do to it being a fun and a new skating and learning experience, it is up to the discretion of the referee and the starter if any penalty is appropriate.

Provincial:  Modified false start rule. The first false start results in the skater moving 2m back and to the outside lane. Subsequent false start(s) result(s) in a penalty.

  • The first false start in a race is charged against the entire field. This means that if any skater commits another false start in that race, even if they did not commit the first false start, the skater will be penalized and will be removed from that race.

Elite:  No false starts are permitted, resulting in a penalty and skater is removed from that race. 

  1. If a skater is knocked down by another skater at the start (before the first corner apex block), the starter may call the start back. However, if a skater falls on his or her own and was not interfered with by another skater, the race will normally continue. If a falling skater interferes with another skater off the start, the race is generally called back. This is a judgment call by the starter, and it should never be assumed that a race will be called back.
  2. Skaters are not allowed to shoot a leg forward to try and get a skate across the finish line in front of another skater. This action is called kicking out and will result in a penalty.
  3. A skater may knock a cone without being disqualified but if a skater skates inside the cones marking the curve to try and shorten the track, they will be disqualified. There are track stewards on the ice surface who replace displaced cones.
  4. Skaters are not allowed to interfere with other skaters: no pushing, no bumping a skater in front of them (e.g., by cutting inside as they enter a corner). This is referred to as impeding.
  5. If a skater falls, it is their responsibility to make sure they don’t interfere with another skater when getting up and starting to skate again. This means that they have to check behind them for other skaters before getting up or back on the track. Skaters who have fallen and are effectively out of the running will usually keep to the outside of the track.
  6. Any unsportsman like behaviour may also result in disqualification. This may include, but is not limited to, swearing or insulting other competitors, arguing with an official(s), punching mats after a fall, or inappropriate celebration on crossing the finish line.
  7. If a skater falls on their own or is taken down in an accidental fashion by another skater, it is simply considered bad luck. However, if a skater is knocked down or knocked off course as a result of an infraction by another skater, that skater may be advanced from a heat to a higher final by the referee. This will only happen if the referee has determined that the skater was in a position to earn a position into that higher final when the infraction occurred.


Get familiar with Speed Skate Ontario’s website. Rules and Regulations are all posted and can be downloaded for personal reference. https://ontariospeedskating.ca

SSC Red Book 2023-2024. Rules and regulations.

Thank you, Toronto Speed Skating Club, for originally preparing and sharing this document.

© 2024 Markham Speed Skating Club. All Rights Reserved.