| In skating events, the ice quality is often the cause for athletes` failures. There is a proverb that says, "A bad workman always blames his tools." However, the quality of ice greatly affects athletes` performances in skating events, in which they race at some 50 kilometers per hour or perform by putting all their weight on the two skate blades about 3 millimeters thick and 30 centimeters long. Sung Si-baek, 27, who won a silver medal in short track speed skating in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, said that ice quality can affect up to 70 percent of athletes` performance, while the impact may vary on different athletes.
With just one day ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the ice quality has become a major issue among skating athletes. The Iceberg Skating Palace, the venue of short track speed skating and figure skating events, is known to have hard ice surface, which South Korean athletes prefer.
Kim Yuna, 24, the reigning figure skating queen who is known for her "textbook" performances, performs higher and longer jumps than other skaters. Therefore, a hard ice surface is a must-have to gain jump power. Kim can perform more splendid skating skills on a hard and slippery ice surface, while foreign figure skaters prefer softer surfaces. A hard surface can cause big damage when a skater falls down. Those who are not confident about their jumps take advantage of a soft ice surface to make a slight turn on the ice in advance just before making a jump.
A hard rink surface is also good news to the South Korean short track team. "Foreign athletes tend to cower on a hard surface lest they slip on the ice," Sung said. "However, a hard ice surface is good news to skilled South Korean speed skaters." The Taeneung Indoor Ice Rink in Seoul, where South Korean skaters are trained, keep the indoor temperature at around 10 degrees centigrade at athletes` request in order to main the ice surface hard. The ice temperature is kept at around 6 degrees below zero centigrade.
The Adler-Arena Skating Center in Sochi, the venue for speed skating events, is generally known to have a hard ice surface, although it has mixed reviews. South Korean athletes prefer a soft surface, where it is easy to put the blades deep in to the ice to gain momentum and speed up due to low friction.
"While most South Korean speed skaters like a soft surface, they will have no problems on any type of ice as they have had enough training on all hard surfaces," said Kim Kwan-kyu, a senior official at the Korea Skating Union.
It is inevitable that the surface quality changes a little bit every day. The key lies in athletes` ability to adapt.