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Sportswear and Performance Textiles Research Paper


Executive Summary

Speed skating is and has been a popular winter sport since its invention in the Scandinavian nations particularly the Netherlands. For a considerably long period, it was resigned as an amateur sport in Europe exclusively. However, it has risen as a professional sport since the early 20th century. The first male Olympic speed skating Short Track and Long Track competitions were held in 1924 while the official Olympic female competitions were held in 1960 (Speed skating Canada 2011, Para. 4; Fridell 2008, p.32). Current speed skating global market spreads across the globe. Major geographical markets are, however, found in European countries, North America (Canada and United States), and in Asian countries such as Japan, South Korea, and China. China and South Korea dominate short track speed skating in the Olympic Games. The United States, Canada, Russia, and Germany are powerful leaders in the sport.

Even though the sport itself has retained its original nature, many transformations have occurred particularly with regard to the kind of design techniques and materials used to make skates, sportswear, safety equipments and protective gear for participants. Speed skating sportswear should provide warmth, dry and comfortable fit that can allow a participant to concentrate on producing as much power he or she can which is required to propel her body over a given distance in the shortest time possible. Advancement in fibre and fabric technology has enabled designers to make more effective speed skating performance sportswear. They have improved speed skating suits in a way that reduces drag and resistance from wind and ice in order to increase the average speed of skating. Design techniques and the apparel structure have also transformed considerably.

Development of Speed Skating

Definition

Speed skating also referred to as speed skating is one of the oldest winter sporting activity. Even though during the twentieth century there has emerged professional speed skaters, it has been largely a recreational or part-time sport (Speed skating Administration 2011, Para 1; Snoep 2010, p.4). Presently, the sport is mostly positioned as a professional sport in Europe, particularly in Norway and Netherlands. However, there are professional skating athletes found in different parts of the world, as well as, various competitions.

Speed skating is a form of competitive ice skating where participants compete with each other in travelling a definite distance on skates hence the name speed skating. The skates were initially made of bones in Scandinavian nations as early as 1500 AD where the sport originated. Today, there are skates made of steel blades and clap skates (Gustaitis 2009, p.5). Despite these changes, the sporting activity itself has retained its original nature (Speed skating Administration 2011, Para 1).

History and development

Speed skating has its roots in the Scandinavian nations particularly Netherlands where people were skating on bone skates as early as 1500 AD. Scandinavian natives used to add bones to their shoes and use them to travel on frozen rivers, lakes and canals over a millennium ago (Gustaitis 2009, p.4). However, it was during the sixteenth century that people started to see skating as a sporting activity and deriving fun from it. Since then, the sport has undergone various changes especially in terms of equipments used even though it has retained its original nature (National Speed Skating Museum 2011, p.1). Up to the years 1860-70s speed skating had not made any significant progress despite the fact that people had already practiced skating for many years (Brokaw 1910, p. 9).

During the early eighteenth century, the first skating club known as the Skating Club of Edinburgh was established. The first recorded speed skating competition took place at the Fens in England on February 4, 1763 (National Speed Skating Museum 2011, p.2). It was on a distance of fifteen miles. Shortly, skating tournaments and clubs spread through out Northern Europe. The first countries to organize national skating championships were Canada and the United States in 1887 and 1889 respectively. The sport became a masculine Olympic sport in 1924 and 1960 women’s speed skating tournaments were organized for the first time as an official Olympic sport (National Speed Skating Museum 2011, p.3; Gustaitis 2009, p.3). In Olympic Games, there are two forms of speed skating viz. Long Track and Short Track. Long Track is the oldest form and comprises of two skaters racing at the same time in different lanes with time being the fundamental consideration (Speed skating Administration 2011, Para 1; Gustaitis 2009, p.3). It is normally 400 meters long with some leeway in corner length and radius. Short Track first got popularity in the US during 1970’s and became an official Olympic Sport in 1990’s.

Speed Skating safety equipments

Speed skaters require protective equipments when they are taking part in practice and competitions. Apart from skates, significant speed skating safety equipments include helmets, knee pads, cut resistant gloves, eye protection, shin pads, elbow pads, bib style guard and clothing (Syracuse Speed Skating 2011, Para. 1). Safety equipment is vital for all skaters (in-line and ice skaters) because even experts skaters from time to time have accidents (Crossingham & Kalman 2003, p.28). It is usually recommended by training program organizers that participants should discuss with their coaches whenever they are interested in buying any equipment.

How to Speed skate

To be a successful speed skater one requires not only vigorous training but also courage and fitness. Just as the name of the sport suggests, it is a speed sporting activity, and in fact, the most essential factor is time. Therefore, it requires vigorous training because standards of professionalism have gone up with participants covering 500m in slightly less than a minute. A Participant must learn and master technical tactics and get used to skating in full speed skating safety suit because accidents can happen any time.

Speed skating is essentially a rhythmical, non-stop and fast sport of skating. It usually includes long and short tracks; marathon skating, in-line and pack style (Maughan 2000, p.646). Skating entails contraction of the hip and extensors during the stroke. Originally, speed skating was performed with wooden runners attached to shoes; bones were later used, and then iron runners first used in 1500s and now steel blades and clap skates (Maughan 2000, p.646).

Structure of speed skating

Speed skating is a member of the bigger family of sports of skating that also includes figure skating and ice hockey. Speed skating itself includes forms such as long track, short track, marathon skating, in-line skating and pack style (Maughan 2000, p.646; Miller et al 2009, p.216). Long track and short track are the most common competition forms. Long track speed skating takes place on an oval rink that is 400 meters around. There are 500m, l000m, 1,500m, 3,000m and 10,00m races for both men and women (Gustaitis 2009, p.3). Participants also compete in a race known as team pursuit. Short track speed skating is conducted on an oval track that is 111.12 meters around. There are also 500m, 1,000m, and 1,500m races for men and women. In addition, there is a 3,000m and 5,000m relay for women and men respectively (Gustaitis 2009, p.3). In Short track speed skating, turns are tight and thus falls take place frequently (Books LLC 2010, p.17). A typical speed skating competition such as marathon skating includes various officials such as meet coordinator, referee, starter, registrar, electronic timers, six place judges, two lap counters, track stewards and announcers (Speed skating Canada 2010, p. 6; Alberta Speed Skating 2010, Para 4).

Demographic profile

Speed skating is an old winter sporting activity. Even though it has been mostly an amateur sport, professional skaters have emerged since 20th century. Presently, it is thought of as a professional sport in Europe particularly in Norway and Netherlands. However, there are expert skaters in different parts of the world. It is presently a popular winter sport in United States, Canada, South Korea and China (Alberta Speed Skating 2010, Para. 6). Through out the Scandinavian Europe, it has been a popular winter sporting activity among various age groups. For instance, most long-track speed skaters are from the Netherlands where the sport enjoys a large number of fans. Moreover, the sport has had champion athletes from other countries around the world including Germany, Japan, Austria, China, Canada, South Korea, Russia, Finland, Italy, Norway, the United States, Czech Republic, and Sweden.

In fact, majority of long track facilities are found in Europe, the United States, and Canada. It is generally recognized that Short Track skating achieved popularity in the United States in 1970’s before it became an Olympic sport in 1990’s. South Koreans have dominated Short Track skating since its beginning in the United States. Long Track skating is best known for its attraction to many competitors from different Mesothelioma Lawyer countries who have won many medals. Other countries where speed skating is played in the contemporary world include Belgium, France, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Statistics available show that speed skating participants are mainly concentrated between ages 15 and 55 years amongst both males and females across the world (International Olympic Committee 2006, p.18). The table below shows the number of medals won by each country that took part in the year 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games organized at Richmond Olympic Oval from 13 to 27 February 2010.

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 South Korea 3 2 0 5
2 Netherlands 3 1 3 7
3 Canada 2 1 2 5
4 Czech Republ4ic 2 0 1 3
5 Germany 1 3 0 4
6 United States 1 2 1 4
7 Japan 0 2 1 3
7 Russia 0 1 1 2
9 China 0 0 1 1
9 Norway 0 0 1 1
9 Poland 0 0 1 1
Total 12 12 12 36

Source: International Skating union site.

Market research and Assessment

Global market

Speed skating global market has been expanding steadily since the rise of the sport as a professional sport during early twentieth century. The sport is still largely a popular recreational sport across the globe. Its markets are particularly bigger in Europe and North America – Canada and the United States. In Asia, China, South Korea, and Japan are the leading consumers of the speed skating sport. In fact, China and South Korea are known for their domination of short-track speed skating competition events in key championships such as Olympic Games.

Speed skating global market has in fact under gone a golden age like many other sports across the world. It is a sport that attracts interested participants from across virtually all age groups of a society. Hence, consumption of speed skating sports related products has been on the rise in various parts of the world. Hence, marketing of speed skating sportswear and events is attracting more and more people. This trend is clearly supported by a tremendous increase of media coverage and public viewing of the winter Olympic games including speed skating since the year 2006 in Torino Olympic Games (International Olympic Committee 2006, p.18). The increased appeal of the Winter Olympics is an indication of growing consumption of speed skating. It is also the major sporting event where male and female viewers are fairly represented (International Olympic Committee 2006, p.18).

Major geographic markets

Speed skating equipments, footwear, and apparel leading geographic markets are found in Europe, North America (Canada and United States), and Asia where speed skating is played. In Europe, major markets for speed Skating equipments, footwear and apparels are concentrated in the Scandinavian countries and other European countries where it is a popular winter sport. In Asia, its key geographic markets are situated in Japan, China and South Korea. In all these markets, world’s leading sports commodities companies including Nike, Adidas and Reebok dominate the markets.

Major retail apparel brands

Speed skating leading apparel brands come in a variety of models such as ice and non-ice models. Your choice of brand largely depends on your goals as an individual skater. Major Speed skating apparel brands includes those made by Bauer, Bont, Nike, Roces, Inliners, Senate Puberty, Roxa, and USD. Speed skating clothing is decidedly wide-ranging and colourful. Bont is particularly popular for its inline skating skin suits and protective speed skating suits. Bont’s speed skating suits, like its Hi-tech performance suit, are best known for enhancing a skater’s maximum endurance and offering unmatched comfort. Nike speed skating apparel brands are also popular in various speed skating countries. Its recently launched Swift Skin speed skating suits are a vital competitor in various geographical markets. Below, see a diagram of Bont’s High-Tech performance compression tights (Bont 2011, Para. 3).

Major retail apparel brands.
Source: Bont official Website.

Drivers of their market growth and leadership of the sport

Skating, including speed skating, is presently a booming sport. For the better part of its contemporary history, speed skating has been largely a popular recreational sport. Even though professional aspects emerged within the sport since the start of the twentieth century it is still a popular winter amateur sport particularly in Europe and North America (Canada and United States). Speed skating is a thrilling and adventurous sport that requires not only intense training for one to make a cogent skater but also guts (Wixon 2009, p.13). It is a highly technical sport that needs a continuous brain alert. It is an entertaining sport since it is the fastest sport world over that is human-powered and non mechanical. Modern well trained expert speed skaters can move faster than 60 Kilometres per hour (Gustaitis 2009, p.5).

Apart from its popularity as a winter sport, advent of manmade ice rinks is another factor that has been significant to the growth and development of speed skating market (Levinson & Christensen 1996, p. 197). Currently, speed skaters do not have to wait until winter season in order to take part in their favourite sport. Since the early twentieth century when speed skating became an official male Olympic sport, participants have taken part in artificial ice rinks somehow making the sport an all weather sport like many others. This has in turn led to an increased demand for speed skating apparels, equipments, footwear and trainers in various leading global markets through out the year.

Health benefits associated with speed skating and other skating sports have also been significant to its market growth and development in a world that is increasingly concerned about the adverse health effects of increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Sports and nutritional experts recommend physically and mentally demanding sports like speed skating for purposes of normal and better physical and mental growth and development. These factors and others have contributed to a rise in demand for speed skating equipments, apparels and footwear for children, youths and people of other age groups. Furthermore, there has been an evident increase in sport market economies within the emerging South American and Asian countries (Janet et al 2007, p.171). South Korea and China are the world’s Short Track speed skating leaders. The United States, Russia, Germany, china and most of the Scandinavian nations particularly Norway and Netherlands have won many Olympic awards since the sport became an official male Olympic sport in 1924 (USA International Business Publications 2002, p.43).

Key attributes

Safety considerations

A lot of risk is involved in speed skating. Therefore, the sport should not be practiced without intense training and guidance under an expert skater and trainer (LTAD Canada 2007, p.5; Syracuse Speed Skating 2011, Para. 2). It is pertinent to note that although it is an engrossing sport, just like its name suggests it involves extraordinary high speed of about 60 km per hour. High speed in turn means that in case of an accident which even expert skaters encounter, injuries suffered can turn out to be disastrous and/or can put your life at danger (LTAD Canada 2007, p.5). Hence safety equipments are particularly critical and must be won through out all practice and competition events. It is safer to use ice tracks rather than frozen pools. A typical speed skating safety gear should consist of knee pads, elbow pads and a helmet that gives a participant safety and lowers the danger of sustaining injuries. It is recommended that before heading to a speed skating rink, “one should inspect his/her speed skating suits for defects and holes” (Brokaw 1910, p. 95). An ideal speed skating suit should be aerodynamically sound in order to reduce the space that air needs to cross during an event. Below, see an example of speed skating helmet known as Maple Speed Skating Helmet.

Safety considerations.
Source: Indy Speed.

Protection

All skaters must wear a protective gear during training sessions and competition events. In fact, during competition events additional protective equipments must be won. Helmets are meant to protect the head and skull from possible injuries in case of an accident should always be won. They are supposed to be the hard shell type, like bicycle helmets (Indy Speed 2008, p.1). Neck guards with a bib attached to protect the part below your Adams apple should be won (Indy Speed 2008, p.1). One can also use neck guards built into a shirt. Below, see an Itech JP400 with Kevlar Neck Guard.

Protection
Source: Indy Speed.

Participants should also put on knee pads in order to guard against knee injuries in case of a fall especially during short track speed skating, as well as, training sessions. Shin protectors are also required for short-track competition also highly recommended for training sessions especially for speed skating beginners (Indy Speed 2008, p.2). Soccer shin guards can be used and are known to work well. Gloves are particularly needed for short-track competition as well as for training. The palm part of a glove should be made of leather (Indy Speed 2008, p.3). It is also highly recommended that, for purposes of a little more warmth, speed skaters should consider wearing cross country ski glove (Indy Speed 2008, p.3). It is also recommended that skaters should wear Kevlar long underwear. The long underwear is won under your skin suit. The protective suits usually have Kevlar in strategy positions attached to soft Lycra in order to ensure a comfortable fit (Indy Speed 2008, p.3). Speed skaters should also wear protective glasses in order to prevent eye damage especially in outdoor skating events. It is recommended for one to use clear glasses like the ones used by expert marksmen in order to get a clear visibility of the track ahead. Glasses prevent pieces of ice and debris from getting into one’s eyes as s/he goes through the sharp turns.

Key actions or activities that influence the attributes required for a successful apparel assembly

Speed skaters should dress for warmth when skating indoor or outdoors, by layering their apparel. In most cases, indoor ice tracks are maintained at around 50 to 60 degrees; therefore, jackets are proposed. Outdoor speed skating ice rinks can be of any temperatures (Special Olympics 2011, p.6). Hence, if it is extremely cold, one should put on tights or thermal underwear to stay warm. Speed skating apparel should be comfortable and tight-fitting (Special Olympics 2011, p.6). It is well to note that, if for instance, the apparel is too loose or too large it can get tangled in the ice skates and bring other wise preventable accidents. Most of these accidents can be disastrous and can easily put your life at risk. Warm-up pants and sweatpants are recommended for comfort (Special Olympics 2011, p.6).

Jeans should be avoided because they stay wet for too long and are thus bound to be uncomfortable. Waterproof snow suits are particularly recommended for child speed skaters. One should also put on gloves or waterproof mittens and a hat to keep your ears warm if it is extremely cold (Special Olympics 2011, p.6). This practice is recommended at all times for children speed skaters. Hands usually feel better in case one falls and s/he is wearing gloves. Moreover, a speed skater’s feet feel much better if s/he puts on a one pair of lightweight, warm seamless socks (Special Olympics 2011, p.6). However, a beginner using borrowed rink skates should use a thicker pair of socks so as to help pad his or her feet since the skates are usually of poor quality and are mostly worn out. Finally, an ideal skin suit should be stretchy so as to provide freedom of movement and close-fitting to be aerodynamic because much of skating resistance is normally air resistance. Below, see a Team Bont international skin suit (Bont 2011, Para. 3).

Key actions or activities that influence the attributes required for a successful apparel assembly
Source: Bont Official website.

Functional requirements of each layer of apparel

Effective layering refers to dry, warm comfort while skating indoor or outdoors. Speed skaters should dress in layers that together keep them warm, dry and safeguarded from anything that can potentially injure them. Dressing properly for speed skating means being dressed up in layers that work together to ensure that one is warm, dry and properly protected from different skating circumstances. It is wise to remember to dress up properly for the coldest or severe weather conditions someone envisages. An ideal layering system for speed skating comprises of three layers namely:

  • Layer 1: long underwear/base layer.
  • Layer 2: insulating tops and pants
  • Layer 3: outerwear (Speed skating Canada 2008, p.12)

Layer 1: long underwear/base layer

The function of pants and tops in this layer is to ensure that the wearer is dry by ensuring that perspiration evaporates quickly as well as to keep the wearer comfortable through out the skating session. In addition, the long underwear should give comfort and warmth against your skin (Kunzle-Watson 1996, p.11; Indy Speed 2008, p.3). In terms of style, the conventional combination of long pants and long-sleeved pullover, both of which has wavy cuffs meant to keep out cold especially during traditional winter speed skating are up to date popular. However, there are other new styles such as short-sleeved tops, mock neck tops, and short-style bottoms that cover much of the thigh to keep one’s quadriceps muscles warm. Layer one clothes are supposed to fit tightly to the body in order to absorb moisture efficiently (Kunzle-Watson 1996, p.12). It is generally recommended that one should stick to his/her normal size because too-snug clothes will hinder free movement while too loose clothes can get entangled in the body, be irritating or bunch. Your comfort is the main issue here. Therefore, underwear clothes should be soft, able to keep the wearer dry and give a little more warmth.

Layer 2: insulating tops and pants

The fundamental function of this layer is to keep one warm through a training or competition event. One can choose from a variety of tops in this layer including vests, sweaters and fleece tops (Kunzle-Watson 1996, p.12). They are mostly in pullover styles. In addition, there are knit and fleece pants. One should avoid primary cotton knits because of cotton’s tendency to absorb and hold moisture. Layer two garments should be slightly loose fit for purposes of free movement when skating. However, they should fit under a jacket and skating pants without bunching or sagging.

Layer 3: outerwear

The outer layer is supposed to protect the wearer from harsh elements, which s/he may encounter while skating such as rain and wind in case of outdoor skating. It usually includes one- piece suits, pants and jackets which may be insulated or non-insulated (Kunzle-Watson 1996, p.13). They should be spacious enough to allow freedom of movement.

Comfort requirements

Ergonomics

Comfort is certainly a paramount concern in speed skating sport because; it is sport that takes places under circumstances that can potentially cause physical and psychological uneasiness and even injuries. Comfort refers to the ability of a speed skating performance sportswear to provide the skater with warmth, physical and psychological ease. An ideal speed skating performance sportswear should be a comfortable fit that is roomy in order to allow a skater freedom of movement (Group et al 1979, p. 261). Participants should always use a speed skating suit that fits tightly to their bodies.

Design, style ease and compression

A skater’s hard work and many years of training in the ice can be futile, if s/he is wearing speed skating clothing that slows him or her down since speed is the substance of this sport. Participants of a speed skating competition must race against time. Hence, there is a given performance sportswear that one is supposed to use in order to succeed in speed skating and be on the right side of international rules of speed skating. The kind and the way performance sportswear is used in speed skating play a critical role. One of the two main criterions of success in speed skating is essential equipments such as skates and performance sportswear. The other condition is the time needed to propel the participant’s body for a standard distance (Kuper & Sterken 2002, p.6). For speed skating, the best competitor is usually the one who can properly sustain the greatest power to beat resistance or drag resulting from whatever source. Apart from having the ability to produce exceptional power, the top competitor should also be able to maintain power out put in an efficient and skilful way for through out a competition (Kuper & Sterken 2002, p.6).

Layering

Sportswear plays a significant role in determining how well a speed skater is positioned to produce the power needed and sustain it efficiently and effectively due to the circumstances under which the sport takes place especially outdoor speed skating. Speed skating performance sportswear is noteworthy because it provides warmth, protection against injurious elements and comfortable fit to a participant. For instance, tights help a participant to increase his or her power while at the same time keeping them dry and light. Tights are also made in a way that encourages maximum blood flow toward the heart in order to keep a participant performing at his or her best. In addition, most of them are designed to provide compression and greater muscle stability in order to prevent injury.

This, in turn, enables a skater to concentrate on producing the required power in order to overcome resistance from ice or wind. Speed is a decisive factor in determining the success of a participant because he or she must race against time. There are many factors which determine the average skating speed including technical abilities of an individual skater, endurance, strength, the quality of the skating ring and aero-dynamics (Kuper & Sterken 2002, p.6). Speed skating suits affect aerodynamics and thus the average skating speed. Well designed modern speed skating sportswear to minimize drag and increase speed. A participant using performance sports wear with these qualities is bound to perform better. On the contrary, a participant using sports wear that does not reduce resistance and drag performs poorly because of the resultant low speed.

Thermal regulation

There are many factors that a designer should consider when designing speed skating clothing. Currently, progress in fibres and fabric have enabled designer to ensure softness of an ideal layer one garment like the recommended long underwear. Good performance sportswear should whisk perspiration away from the body of a skater to the outside of the clothing where it can evaporate quickly. When a skater puts on long underwear with a moisture wicking ability, a dry, warm area is established between this fabric and the protecting garment one wears over it. The fabric or fibre of your garments should continuously keep perspiration moving away from your skin and let your body keep the wearer warm effectively. The bulk or weight of the fabric used in making underwear and the insulating garments determines the warmth it offers to the skater or wearer.

Insulating garments exist in a variety of materials and weights which also affect the amount of warmth they provide. Elite speed skaters select their underwear that is light to mid-weight. It is pertinent to note that, low-bulk that can offer warmth without too much weight or bulk, is vital for the general comfort and more importantly for freedom of movement. Furthermore, stretchy materials that provide a natural stretch are suitable for more experienced speed skaters as well as those who prefer greater ease of movement. In some styles antibacterial or antimicrobial treatments are there. They offer more benefits even though they are not an obligatory necessity. These treatments make clothing resistant to germs and bacteria that cause unpleasant smell such as moulds and mildews. It is recommended that if one intends to use your long underwear for a prolonged period without washing anti-bacterial/anti-microbial treatments can be helpful.

Speed skating outerwear should be waterproof and breathable to ensure all necessary protection from any element that can cause harm to a participant. The objective of waterproof and breathable outer wear is to prevent moisture from outside from passing through the jacket, and at the same time allow water vapour produced by a participant’s perspiration to evaporate. It is well to note that water-repellent/water-resistant outerwear is more breathable than waterproof/ breathable out wear. Currently, there are waterproof/breathable outwears that consist of design elements such as zippers and venting systems that allow more perspiration to evaporate out of a peed skater’s body. Warmth, softness, comfortable fit and freedom of movement provided by speed skating sportswear are crucial to the overall performance of a participant in indoor and outdoor speed skating competition and training events. Without proper protection from various elements such as ice, wind and rain in a winter sport like speed skating a participant can hardly take part well and productively.

Current garment

Fibres

There is a variety of fibres which are currently used in making speed skating apparels including carbon fibre, Kevlar fibre, High Performance Polythene Fibre (HPPF), copolymer plastics, silk, wool, cotton and High-grade polyurethane. Carbon fibre is made up of long thin filaments which are at times transferred into graphite. Carbon fibre is used in the making of skate boards to make them “strong and light in weight, for various types of skating including speed skating and down hill speed boarding” (Kannan 2008, Para 4). Kevlar fibre is popular for its high tenacity. It was produced in 1970 under its current trade mark name Kevlar (Kannan 2008, Para 2). It is best known for its exceptional properties arising from the anisotropy of its superimposed substructure that makes available pleated, skin core features and cyrstalinity. Kevlar fibres are used in making speed skating protective apparels such as gloves (Kannan 2008, Para 5).

They are also used in making speed skating pants. High Performance Polythene Fibre (HPPF) is presently a common fibre in the making of speed skating sportswear. It is produced through gelatine and crystallization process where a spinning solution is converted into ultra high molecular weight polythene (Kannan 2008, Para 9). It is commonly used in protecting a wearer of a garment made with HPPE fibres against puncture and cut. In speed skating sport, it is used in making protective gloves, which are used to protect a participant’s hands against injury in case of a fall, particularly during short track speed skating and during the initial stages of training (Kannan 2008, Para 9).

They are popular for their high energy absorption at break due to low weight (Kannan 2008, Para 9). Furthermore, HPPE fibres do not lose strength in water and are not easily affected by seawater or ultra violet light. This fact explains why nets were the first goods to be made with HPPE fibres (Kannan 2008, Para 9). Speed skating apparels made with HPPE fibres have a low elongation and are flexible. Silk is particularly used in light weight garments. It is a natural wicking fibre that is both strong and soft. Sometimes long underwear made of silk is treated in order to enhance its moisture wicking ability. Wool fibre inherently wicks away moisture. Cotton fibre is popular in the making of underwear or base layer clothing because of its ability to absorb and hold moisture. Blends of silk, cotton, and wool are best known in providing the best properties of each fibre. It is thus recommended that designers should always consider using a blend of these materials when making garments for speed skating under a variety of conditions.

Fabrics

Common fabrics in speed skating sport garments making include polyester and other synthetics. Synthetic fabrics are highly recommended for long underwear because of their ability to provide a compelling combination of softness, moisture management, and thermal regulation properties. Polyester is popular because of its outstanding wicking ability. Synthetic fleeces like polar fleece are presently the commonly used material for insulating garments. Apart from offering warmth without too much bulk or weight, they are excellent moisture wicking fabrics and are normally useful for use in both popular and conventional speed skating apparels.

It is also washable with a machine and is known for retaining its original shape even after repeated wash and wear routines. Pile is another outstanding form of synthetic fabric. It shares many characteristics with fleece including breathability, wicking, and ability to provide warmth without a lot of weight or bulk. It is also popular because of its ability to provide a pleasant, artificial-fur appearance. It is well to note that, one should consider fabrics and treatments used on speed skating sports underwear carefully, as well as, outerwear when choosing a speed skating sports wear. Mostly, outwear is made of tightly woven polyester or nylon. These fabrics are long lasting and relatively water-resistant. Moreover, they can be woven in a variety of weights. In fact, some speed skating sportswears are made of a blend of polyester and nylon. In such a case, these fabrics are woven using extremely sensitive fibres. However, micro fibres are mostly used in expensive high-performance speed skating garments.

Finishes

For underwear

  • Soft
  • Comfortable fit
  • Quick dry
  • Moisture wicking ability
  • For outerwear
  • Long lasting water repellent finishes
  • Wind-proof
  • Moisture wicking ability

Apparel structure

Speed skating apparel structure has evolved drastically over years since the emergence of the sport as a professional sport during early twentieth century and establishment as an Olympic sport in 1924. Speed skating is still a popular recreational winter sport that attracts participants across all prime age groups of a society. Today, underwear or base layer are designed as short-sleeved tops, mock-neck tops, or short-style bottoms that cover most of a wearer’s thigh in order to keep quadriceps muscles warm. However, traditional blend of long pants and long-sleeved pullover that has ribbed cuffs to keep out cold is still prevalent in markets. Insulating tops and pants exists as a range of tops that include sweaters, vests and fleece tops most often in pullover designs. Knit or fleece pants are also present in various markets that consume speed skating sport products. Major brands of speed skating suits are made from materials such as Microfiber Lycra which is very soft and of an extremely high quality (Bont 2011, Para 2). Skiing wetsuit technology seam construction has been borrowed in order to enhance modern speed skating wetsuit durability. Some of their main features like the Team Bont international skins suit shown below include:

  • Double stitched seams and a flat locking stitch which offers a long lasting stitch
  • They are made using streamlined new design techniques in black and red
  • Their front opening consists of a hidden zipper which goes up to the collar or up to the base of the hood.
  • They also have thumb loops, knee and shin padding for Short track suits (Bont 2011, Para. 2)
Apparel structure
Source: Bont Official Website.

Design techniques

Current design techniques are geared towards ensuring reduced drag and resistance in order to increase the average speed of speed skating, providing warmth, softness, comfortable fit and moisture wicking ability. They can also increase safety and protection of a participant from possible injuries, especially during short-track speed skating competition or training sessions in which, falls are common and almost unavoidable. For instance, designing techniques of modern compression tights includes a seamless design that is meant to prevent irritation and chafing (Bont 2011, Para 2). Designers are also borrowing techniques from technology of constructing sportswear for closely related sports such as skiing. For instance, strengthened construction of the compression tight has been borrowed from wetsuit technology in order to enhance its long life.

Current design and new product trends

Fibres

Major progress has been made in fabric and fibre technology. For instance, in 1970 Kevlar fibre which is one of the most widely fibres used in the making of speed skating protective apparels such as gloves was produced (English-heritage 2010, p.11; Bardal 2010, p.16). In addition, a combination of various fibres that provide their best properties is possible to make thanks to advances made in fibre and fabric technology. This fibre blending has enabled designers to make sportswear that is suitable for speed skating under a variety of conditions.

Fabrics

Similar milestones of advancement made in fibre technology have also been made in fabrics technology, thereby enabling designers to make high-performance speed skating sports wear. For example, improvements in current fabric technology have enabled designers to make speed skating sportswear that is made out of tightly woven polyester or nylon (Bardal 2010, p.16). These can be woven in a variety of weights as the designer may wish. In other instances, speed skating sports wear is made using nylon and polyester micro fibres. In such cases, the fabrics are woven using exceptionally fine fibres.

Finishes

Major improvements in finishes include those geared towards increasing comfortability of a typical speed skating sports wear including the following:

  • Softness
  • Warmth
  • Moisture wicking ability
  • Quick dry
  • Comfortable fit
  • Long lasting water repellent finishes
  • Wind-proof

Colours

Current speed skating products are colourful. For instance, speed skating has additional reflective marks in addition to its other shiny and bright parts. The reflective marks play the role of enabling a participant to sport an approaching skater. This reduces chances of colliding with others on a track.

Apparel structure

As mentioned out earlier, speed skating apparel structure has transformed tremendously. Today, even the materials used to make speed skating apparel must be approved international speed skating governing bodies. The structure of speed skating apparel must meet standards that ensure safety, protection and comfort of a wearer.

Design techniques

After the Olympic winter games of 1998, speed skating sportswear manufacturers began to develop speed skating suits that could further decrease drag and resistance and thereby improve aerodynamics (Bardal 2010, p.16). For example, Nike developed the Swift skin suit. Suits developed since those dates are presently underpinned by a similar philosophy of reducing resistance and drag in order to increase speed skating speed. These design techniques in speed skating came into being against a background of the need to increase the average speed skating speed by reducing resistance and drag, which originates from ice and wind (Brownlie et al 2003, p.19).

Other design techniques have been adopted in order to allow more freedom of movement of a participant. Others are geared towards improving the softness of an ideal speed skating wear and improve its ability to provide warmth. Improved design techniques put more emphasis on improving the average speed of speed skating by improving aerodynamics. Speed is particularly paramount in speed skating because speed skaters must race against time. However, designers take note of the fact that other factors such as comfort of a given garment impacts up on the speed of a participant. Therefore, some new design techniques in the making of speed skating sportswear such as compression tights are recommendable since they ensure comfort of a participant so as to ensure that their feel does not hinder a participant from generating sufficient power needed to propel his or her body over a given standard distance.

Conclusion

Speed skating is certainly an entertaining and enjoyable winter sport since its birth in the Scandinavian countries more than a millennium ago. Its technical demand and the amount of power required to propel the body of a participant makes it more appealing. Although it is still largely a recreational sport, it has developed into a professional sport since early twentieth century. Even though the sport has undergone numerous transformations in terms of safety equipment, organizational structure, its sportswear and the number of participants as well as when to skate its has retained its original nature of its essence of sporting. Initially people could only speed skate during the winter season on frozen rivers, canals and lakes, however, today there are artificial ice rinks meaning that one speed skate through out the year or when he or she wishes. Many changes have occurred especially with regard to materials and techniques used to make skates, speed skating sportswear, safety equipment and protective gear.

Speed skating
Source: Alberta Speed Skating.

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