As training for the long track speed skating competitions entered the eighth day ahead of the Winter Olympic Games, skaters said they were getting used to the venue and unfamiliar conditions at the new Beijing National Speed Skating Oval.
The ice makers have been fine-tuning the surface to make sure it is in top condition for race day.
“The first day while we were here it was a bit warm, and the ice was a bit soft, so it made it harder to skate fast,” Dutch skater Patrick Roest told Reuters on Thursday during this week’s training. “It’s getting better every day.”
“The rink is really nice, it’s always special to be at an Olympic ice stadium,” Dutch teammate Sven Kramer, a four-time gold medalist, said after a session gliding around the oval.
“The ice is a bit different every day, but I think it’s getting good. I think they’re trying to get it in shape for this weekend, and I hope they give us some nice results.”
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The speed skating events kick off on Saturday with the Women’s 3000m race, followed by the Men’s 5000m the next day.
The ice for long track speed skating is maintained at the coldest temperature out of all the ice sports and takes time to reach the right conditions, explained Dutch speed skating delegation press officer Carl Mureau.
With the ice only two weeks old, it still needs fine-tuning. But that is a gradual process with no shortcuts as freezing the water too quickly would cause the ice to crack.
“They have to build up slowly. Day after day they have lowered the temperature, which makes the ice better and more comfortable and you have better grip,” Mureau said.
“We are very confident that when the races will start, the ice conditions will be okay.”
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