Mechanical characteristics of the sprint start in speed skating were measured during the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. From three-dimensional film analysis of the first 4 seconds of the male and female 500-m races, biomechanical variables were determined. The first strokes during the start appeared to be performed by a running-like technique. At a forward velocity of approximately 4 m/sec, the skaters are forced to change this technique to the typical gliding technique as used during speed skating at steady speed. In explaining the time differences on the first 100 meters of the 500-m speed skating race, the effectiveness of the push-off appears to be more important than the observed high power output levels.