February 21, 1998
World records on slap, normal skates to be separated
International Skating Union (ISU) President Ottavio Cinquanta told a news conference that future ISU record books will have separate lists for best performances on slap skates and on normal skates.
The record books will also list separately records set on open-air rinks from those achieved on indoor ovals.
''This is a must,'' he said pointing to the ''incredible'' speeds that can be achieved on slap skates and particularly inside roofed rinks where racing conditions can be controlled.
But Cinquanta ruled out introducing a ''classical'' normal skate category and a separate competition for slap skate users, arguing that the pool of athletes is too small to safeguard the principle of universality in the sport.
''To have two different categories is impossible, absolutely impossible,'' he said.
Although they have all but vanished on the world circuit, the ''normal'' skates feature blades which are completely fixed to the boot.
In the distance events, the last standing normal skate world record, set by speed skating legend Johann Olav Koss from Norway in the 10,000 meters at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, was broken in Nagano by Dutch skater Gianni Romme.
One world record set with normal skates still stands -- the men's 500-meter time of 35.39 seconds clocked by Japan's Hiroyasu Shimizu in March 1996 at the Calgary Olympic Oval.
During the Nagano Games, where slap skates made their Olympic debut, five speed skating world records were set, sometimes several times within one competition.
Cinquanta, whose union covers the three Olympic disciplines speed skating, short track speed skating and figure skating, said the competitions at the M-Wave speed skating arena also produced 62 national records and 149 personal best times.
A skater's speed in the 10,000 meters can reach about 45 kilometers per hour, while sprinters now can be as fast as 63 kph, he said.
Cinquanta, a former speed skater who calls himself a ''fanatic of this sport,'' said he is all for the slap skates because ''you should be allowed to use all possible systems'' for the sake of maximum speed.
Slap skates, he said, are not an illegitimate mechanical device which provides power but allow the skater to fully exploit his calf muscles as the blade remains on the ice surface longer than with normal skates.
Developed by Dutch scientists and first worn by top Dutch skaters during the 1996-1997 season, the ''klap'' skate's blade separates from the boot at the heel and later snaps back into position with its unique clapping sound.
''Why should I not use a system to defeat the air resistance... what I cannot do is have somebody pushing me,'' he said.
Cinquanta said, however, any novel equipment -- be it aerodynamic uniforms or better skates -- must be equally available to all athletes to ensure a level playing field. (Kyodo News)
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Copyright 1998 The Shinano Mainichi Shimbun