All skaters compete in heats called pairs. Two individuals face off in each pair, but the athlete who wins does not necessarily take first place in the event. The person with the fastest time of the day wins. Competitors prefer to skate in the fastest pair because it improves their chances for achieving the best time.
Skaters in a pair begin the race side-by-side (even) or staggered. The competitor in the inner track wears a white armband, and the individual starting in the outer lane wears a red one. The starter gives a “go to start” command. Both skaters then move to the 2-meter area between the pre-starting line and the starting line. When hearing the word “ready,” they assume and hold their starting positions until the starter fires the gun.
Each skater can receive up to one warning for a false start before disqualification. Only the first skater to break from the start position before the starter fires the gun receives a warning. If a competitor becomes disqualified for a false start, the remaining athlete skates alone.
Competitors trigger an electronic eye beam when they touch the finish line with their skates. After all pairs have raced, the individual with the fastest time, measured to a hundredth of a second, wins. Skaters with the same time are considered tied.
Skaters must change directions each lap at the crossover point in the backstretch, except for the first straight of the 1,000-meter and 1,500-meter events. Competitors have to switch positions because the inner lane covers a shorter distance than the outer one. The skater crossing the outer lane to the inner one has the right of way.
Skaters who fall during the race can get up and continue. However, for distances less than 5,000 meters, competitors generally cannot make up lost time. In the event that a fallen competitor interferes with the other skater, the second skater gets a fresh start. If an athlete falls before the finish line, the time is recorded when the skate crosses the line, even if the competitor is out of the correct lane.
In the individual events, competitors skate a series of heats or elimination rounds. The heats have up to six skaters, with the top two finishers from each one advancing to the next round. The first person to cross the finish line in the finals wins.
The relay competitions consist of a semifinal and final. Eight teams are divided into two heats of four, with the top two teams from each semifinal advancing to the final. The team whose final member crosses the finish line first wins.
Passing **Video possibility – show a short track collision or passing attempt
Skaters must pass others cleanly, making no body contact. If the lead skater strays too far from the track markers, a competitor will usually try to pass the individual on the inside. If the pack is skating the track tightly, passing must be done on the outside.
The lead skater has the right of way, and the passing competitor must assume responsibility for avoiding body contact. Passing occurs most frequently when a competitor skates by someone on the inside near the first or second block of the corner.
Intentionally pushing, obstructing or colliding with another racer calls for the offender's disqualification. Skaters are disqualified after one infraction.
Teams conduct relay exchanges, performed at high speeds, by firmly pushing the next skater. Competitors can complete the exchange in any area of the track, but the last exchange must start prior to the center line (finish line) with two laps remaining in the race. A gun shot warns skaters as they approach the last exchange.
Skaters do not receive a disqualification for falling, but they have little chance to win after a spill in an individual event.