There are few things more frustrating to Aussie Speed Skater Daniel Grieg, than being compared to Olympic Gold Medallist Steven Bradbury.
“Don’t get me wrong, I idolise Bradbury,” Grieg said. “But I’m sick of explaining to people that we compete in different sports.”
The 26-year-old says he’s long accepted that speed skating is a minority sport in Australia, and, when it comes to clichés, he’s heard them all.
“When I tell people in Australia that I’m a speed skater I usually get the same responses,” he said. “People say, ‘oh like in Blades of Glory?’ Or they go, ‘so you’re the next Steven Bradbury?’ Or they ask ‘so what tricks can you do?’”
“I pretty much have to take a deep breath and be like ‘no I don’t do what Will Ferrell did and I don’t do any tricks and my sport is different to Bradbury’s.”
So, just what is the difference between long track and short track speed skating?
Well, the obvious difference is the size of the track. In short track, skaters compete in a pack, on a track measuring 111.12m. In long track, athletes race in their own lanes, competing in pairs around a 400m track.
“Long track speed skating is pretty much the track athletics of the Winter Olympics,” Greig said. “It doesn’t have the same tactics as short track because you have to stick to your own lane. So there’s no pushing and shoving, it’s really just about who is the fastest on the day.”
In contrast, short track is often referred to as ‘the roller derby of the Winter Olympics’ thanks to the rough and tumble of the event. In the shorter races, like the 500m event, skaters have to push themselves as fast as they can from the very start. In the longer races, like the 1500m, there’s more strategy involved, with some skaters choosing to sit at the back of the pack, to avoid any collisions.
Australia currently doesn’t have any long track rinks, with Greig making the move to the Netherlands to pursue the sport when he was just seventeen.
“I’m hoping one day the sport will become more recognised in Australia,” Greig said. “Hopefully I can skate well at these Games and people at home will start paying a bit more attention to it.”
Greig competes in the 500m and 100m Speed Skating Events on Days 10 and 14 (February 19 and 23 respectively).