Tricky skaters win gold and silver
February 8, 2024 8:00 PM   Subscribe

Love it when athletes use their heads to pull a fast one rather than their bodies.
posted by storybored at 9:54 PM on February 8

I was watching this race at home and was practically screaming at my television as everybody just cruised along. I am certain she spent all that time at the back thinking "I can NOT believe I'm getting away with this."
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:03 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]

I suspect that it's not just cleverness-- that most skaters couldn't start off with a sprint like that and then keep up the pace.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 10:29 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]

The video notes that every other racer would know that Yang was a lap ahead, yet none of them eemed to even tried to speed up to close the distance and she just stayed ahead the whole time. Is she just that much better than everyone else? It would be obvious what she's doing but it seemed like none of the competition tried to do anything about it.
posted by star gentle uterus at 11:02 PM on February 8

I would guess that the sucess of the tactic comes down to the inexperience of the young contenders? They're all going to have a plan to deal with that approach next time.
posted by tomp at 12:52 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Once she'd lapped the field, it would be very difficult for the rest of the skaters to recover that lap on her. She can stay in the back (or middle) and has the advantage of drafting off others the whole race. I'm not a skater, but my guess is that she had to work less hard to gain a lap than the group would have to work to recover it. The only way to avoid this would be to pull her back in earlier in the race.

It's a bit like a breakaway in a bike race, but the fact that it's on a circular track changes the dynamic significantly.
posted by that's candlepin at 6:26 AM on February 9

This was totally planned. Her teammate knew what she was going to do and took advantage of the confusion at the end to get silver. What a fascinating race. I suspect that's a one-time trick though, I don't think this will change the sport.
posted by biblioPHL at 6:30 AM on February 9

I really wish it hadn't fooled the camera too. It really looks like even her teammate cruised across the line, but I think she may have caught on earlier than others that the race for silver and bronze were still on.

You train what to do when you hear that last lap bell, and I'm sure hearing the bell as the pack crossed together set them up to do what they've done a thousand times over...
posted by advicepig at 6:47 AM on February 9

It is a lesson for those skaters to not be so rigid in their strategy. As the commentator mentions, the best strategy for the rest was to pull the leader back in from the beginning. The former US short-track Coach, Sue Ellis, has this in her basic strategy tips:
Perhaps you have great endurance and think you are in better shape than others. You may decide to break early in the race, skate at 100% and hope to hold off your competition. The only drawback is if your competition is right on your tail when you break, they are getting a bit of a draft and may conserve a bit more to pass you at the end. If you break, try to make a clean break from the pack so they can’t draft.
Yang Jingru had about as clean of a break as you could hope for, got the benefit of the draft, and wasn't even challenged on her endurance.
posted by betaray at 7:24 AM on February 9

Yeah, someone needed to make a move to catch her and if everyone saves their energy and assumes the pack will catch her, this is what happens. It's a huge gamble for the person making the first move, but also the ones who initially respond. If you lead the pack to catch her, you probably spent more energy than the rest of the pack, who will now likely out sprint you to the end.
posted by advicepig at 7:37 AM on February 9

This is why it's nice to have team mates in bike racing to do that work while the contender hangs out in the pack.
posted by advicepig at 7:38 AM on February 9

I think that hearing the bell and assuming "last lap" is pretty ingrained. It almost always is the last lap because getting lapped is rare and the entire field getting lapped is even rarer.

I recall there was a steeplechase event a few years back where the bell was mistakenly rung a lap early and most of the runners went with it. A couple were counting laps, but it's a race and they are tired and if your brain says one thing and the officials say another, you probably go with them.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 8:41 AM on February 9

Link to full race (and event) without commentary track:
posted by just.good.enough at 8:44 AM on February 9 [4 favorites]

Steeplechase early bell
posted by just.good.enough at 8:50 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Waiting until the last lap to make a move was just working on default programming. It took Yang 2.5 half laps to lap everyone when they weren't even racing, so that move needed to be made much earlier.

And that's why the pack needed to move at the beginning. The longer you wait the harder it will be to make the move. And everyone else has teammates they can work with, Yang's teammate was no longer in position to help her.
posted by betaray at 10:51 AM on February 9

I love trick plays and was absolutely delighted to see this in skating.
posted by mhum at 10:52 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Oooh, I love me a bit of strategy. That was grin worthy.

Another strategy that won Olympic gold in ice-skating is to stay at the back the whole race...
posted by Thella at 2:17 PM on February 9

Not just me right? But I always found speed skating tracks comically small.

Or they need banked turns.

And jumps.
posted by alex_skazat at 5:59 PM on February 9


posted by alex_skazat at 6:00 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Watched the YouTube video and the commentator recognizes what's going on pretty quickly. He's relatively low-key about it, which was nice.

Perfect sport for this kind of move.
posted by bacalao_y_betun at 7:08 AM on February 10

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