To gain more insight in pacing behavior and tactical positioning in 1500-m short-track speed skating, a sport in which several athletes directly compete in the same race.
Lap times and intermediate rankings of elite 1500-m short-track-skating competitors were collected over the season 2012–13 (N = 510, 85 races). Two statistical approaches were used to assess pacing behavior and tactical positioning. First, lap times were analyzed using a MANOVA, and for each lap differences between sex, race type, final rankings, and stage of competition were determined. Second, Kendall tau b correlations were used to assess relationships between intermediate and final rankings. In addition, intermediate rankings of the winner of each race were examined.
In 1500 m (13.5 laps of 111.12 m), correlations between intermediate and final ranking gradually increased throughout the race (eg, lap 1, r = .05; lap 7, r = .26; lap 13, r = .85). Moreover, the percentage of race winners skating in the leading position was over 50% during the last 3 laps. Top finishers were faster than bottom-place finishers only during the last 5 laps, with on average 0.1- to 1.5-s faster lap times of the race winners compared with the others during the last 5 laps.
Although a fast start led to faster finishing times, top finishers were faster than bottom-placed finishers only during the last 5 laps. Moreover, tactical positioning at 1 of the foremost positions during the latter phase of the race appeared to be a strong determinant of finishing position.