From the various disciplines of the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS), in Buenos Aires a total of 24 athletes (12 women and 12 men) will contest the roller speed discipline, with men’s and women’s combined events featuring races of 500m and 1,000m, and a 5,000m elimination. The combined results from these races will then determine the medallists.
Roller speed events are usually held on indoor rinks, purpose-built banked tracks or closed road circuits, with race distances ranging from 200m sprints up to full 42.195km marathons! The men’s roller speed world record for 200m, held by Spain’s Joseba Fernandez, is 15.879 seconds – more than 3.3 seconds faster than Usain Bolt’s 200m world record!
The athletes can reach speeds of up to 50km per hour! The skates that athletes use are allowed a maximum of five wheels, fastened in a line, and the entire skate must not exceed 50cm in length. The wheels cannot exceed 110mm in diameter (or 125mm for the marathon), and brakes are strictly forbidden.
Due to the similarities in the disciplines, it is not uncommon for roller speed athletes to also compete in speed skating on the ice. In fact, many Olympic speed skaters began their careers in roller speed and still use inline skates for training. Among the first to move from roller speed onto the ice was K. C. Boutiette of the USA, who switched to speed skating in 1993 and subsequently competed at four editions of the Olympic Winter Games. US speed skater Derek Parra, who won gold and silver medals at the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002, was also an 18-time roller speed world champion, while three-time Olympic champion Martina Sáblíková of the Czech Republic often competes in roller speed races as a part of her preparation for the winter season.
The USA’s Chad Hedrick is perhaps the most successful roller speed/speed skating athlete, having won 50 world roller speed titles before taking to the ice to win five Olympic speed skating medals – including 5,000m gold in 2006 – and three world titles. Hedrick also popularised the sought-after “double push” technique in roller speed, which proved to be faster than the classic technique by incorporating two pushing phases into a single stride.