It is believed that skates were developed around 3000 years ago in Scandinavia from mankind’s need to travel along frozen waterways, canals and lakes. Although the Netherlands is the birthplace of speed skating, the first known skating competition is thought to have been a 15-metre race that took place in England on February 4, 1763.
Competitions sprung up across the northern part of Europe shortly thereafter, but the first official speed skating events were not held until 1863 in Oslo, Norway.
In 1889, the Netherlands hosted the first World Championships, bringing together the Dutch, Russians, Americans and English. The International Skating Union (ISU) was founded in 1892 in Scheveningen, Netherlands, and has governed speed skating since its inception.
Long track speed skating, known colloquially as “speed skating” made its debut on the Olympic program at the first Games at Chamonix 1924 and has remained on the program ever since. All the early events, the 500m, 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m were for men. Women’s events were added to the program at the 1960 Games in Squaw Valley.
At the first Games there was also an event called the “omnium” which did not involve a competition, but rather awarded a title to the skater with the best overall results in the four events. This event was dropped after the Chamonix Games. A men’s 1000m was added at Innsbruck 1976.