One is a rhythmic race against the clock while the other is a fast-paced pursuit to the finish line.
Long track skating has been a staple since the first Winter Olympics in 1924. Short track made its Olympic debut in 1994.
The two are fundamentally different from rules to strategies to the skates themselves.
In individual long track speed skating events, competitors skate around a 4000m oval in a contest for the best time.
“There are two lanes on the ice, two different skaters who never come into contact and each skater is just basically racing against the clock,” United States Olympic speed skater Erin Jackson told NBC Olympics.
Long track also features the mass start and team pursuit disciplines.
The mass start is the only individual race with more than two athletes skating at a time. The team pursuit involves two squads lining up on opposing sides for a time trial in the quarterfinal and head-to-head race in the next two rounds.
In short track, several skaters whip around the oval in a race to the finish line.
“The best I can describe it is like inline but on blades and not on wheels,” U.S. short track skater Maame Biney told NBC Olympics. “You’re going extremely fast on a 111-meter track … The goal is to be the first person to cross the line.”
The shortest race for both is the 500m. The longest individual race for long track is the men’s 10,000m while for short track it is the 1500m.
How are the skates different?
The two race types require different footwear. Long track blades are longer to help athletes glide straight faster. Short track blades are shorter and easier to control since there are more dynamic turns.
Short track blades range from 30-45 centimeters, and long track skaters use 40-55-centimeter blades, according to Olympics.com.
Both blades, though, have a slight bend to aid with those turns.
“Even though the blades look straight, they’re a little bent at the same time to give you that lean you need in order to go fast, especially around the corners,” Jackson explained.
SEE MORE: Speed Skating 101: Equipment
Most decorated countries
Norway had a stronghold on long track for decades, but the Netherlands has dominated the sport during the 21st century.
The Dutch have won the most medals or tied for the most medals in each of the last six Winter Olympics. Their 42 gold medals are the most all-time.
The United States is second with 29, although America is in a drought with one medal over the last two Olympics. Norway has 27 golds.
South Korea owns 24 of 56 short track gold medals in Olympic history. China is second with 10, followed by Canada with nine.
The U.S. is fourth with four golds. One American received a silver medal in 2018: John-Henry Krueger, who will race for Hungary this year.
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