It’s that time of the week again. That’s right, time for our Pendulum Sports Winter Olympic preview. This week, we’ll investigate speed skating. You know, that sport that you think looks relatively easy but is actually extremely hard.

Speed skating has two main disciplines in the Olympics – short track and long track. Short track speed skating consists of taking laps around the outside edge of a hockey rink (111.12-meters long) while long track speed skating is a 400 meter-long track.

My, that distance sounds familiar!” you exclaim. That’s because a long track is essentially a frozen-over running track.

Short track speed skating consists of five events per gender at the Winter Games. Both men and women contest three identical individual events: 500-meter, 1000-meter and the 1,500-meter. There is also a pair of relay events: 3,000-meter for women and the 5,000-meter for men. Each event begins with heats and continues down until a final group is established. These events always provide excitement and a bit of controversy. What else would you expect from a combination of hockey and roller derby?

Legendary Apolo Anton Ohno has retired from competition after claiming eight medals over the span of three Olympics. The best hope for an American star successor to Ohno is J.R. Celski, who won a pair of bronze medals in Vancouver in 2010.

On the long track, competitors participate in six different events. Four events are contested for both genders: 500-meter, 1,000-meter, 1,500-meter, and the 5,000-meter. There is a men’s-only 10,000-meter event and a women’s-only 3,000-meter event. Additionally, there is a team pursuit event consisting of three skaters at a time. Long track events are contested in time trial format, with the quickest time winning. There are two skaters sent out at a time, but not to compete head-to-head with one another. In events that take longer than a single lap to complete, the skaters switch lanes from the inside to the outside on each lap.

The best hope for an American medalist in long track speed skating is Shani Davis, who has won two straight gold medals in the men’s 1,000-meter and two straight silver medals in the 1,500-meter. When he won gold in 2006, he became the first African-American athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Games from any nation.

Will Davis make it a three-peat? Can Celski score a gold medal? The Olympic speed skating events are sure to be exciting.