Short Track kits have evolved massively since the sport’s origins and are now high-tech and fashion-conscious. But who has looked the best over the past four decades of action on the oval?
Alan Rattray (USA) 1976
Rattray’s kit was one of beautiful ’70s simplicity: black leggings, white top, woolly gloves, classic lace-up skates and a padded helmet with ALAN emblazoned on the front. It was a different time: the ISU first organized a World Short Track Speed Skating Championships in 1976, and Rattray was the first men’s champion – from the unlikely background of Santa Monica, California, where hardly anyone knew who he was. “I skate for myself,” Rattray told a local paper. “Nobody knows about my accomplishments, I never get written up and I don’t even tell others about what I’ve done.”
Bonnie Blair (USA) 1988 ©Getty Images
Big hair, headbands and spandex: Bonnie Blair’s look was the eighties personified. A brilliant athlete who competed in cycling as well as being a champion in both short and long track, her most dazzling look might have come in Speed Skating – the fluorescent suit at Calgary ’88 was straight out of Fame. But in Short Track she dressed a bit more modestly, wearing classic black skates, knee pads and a white bib as she won the overall World Championships title in Chamonix in ’86.
Wilf O’Reilly (GBR) 1988 © IOC
Like Alan Rattray, O’Reilly was a mould-breaker: hailing from Birmingham, England – a country that had produced some fine Figure Skaters but few racers on ice – he bagged two gold medals when Short Track was included as an Olympic demonstration sport at Calgary ’88. Unlike later GB suits emblazoned with multiple Union flags, his kit that year was a striking number: blue legs, white top and arms, with a strong red strike through the middle. He looked in command as he beat the Canadians at their own game, on their turf.
Team Canada 1992 © IOC
Canada’s men dominated Short Track’s first couple of decades, with Gaetan Boucher, Benoit Baril, Louis Grenier and the Daignault brothers, Guy and Michel, all becoming World Champions. Their suits invariably included a whopping maple leaf front and center, and perhaps the finest edition was sported at the Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games, which featured a grey lower portion and a stylized ‘Canada’ font – making the Canucks look splendid as Short Track became a full Olympic sport for the first time.
Yang Yang and teammate Chunlu Wang (CHN) 2002©Getty Images
Yang’s kit was top-notch – a serious-looking blend of blacks, greys and reds that showed she meant business. And she delivered: the Chinese Short Track legend was pretty much unbeatable during the late 1990s, bagging six consecutive World Championships overall titles from 1997 onwards. Her crowning moment was winning the 500m at the 2002 Winter Olympics – China’s first gold medal at a Winter Games.
Team Italy 2006©Getty Images
The Italians always lead the way in the fashion stakes – and their racers looked fit for the catwalk at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games. Italy’s outfit for the oval was a gentle blue with a cascade of snowflakes over the top, capturing the winter wonderland of the nearby Alps. It was worn most notably by the Ladies’ 3000m Relay team, which won bronze and included a young Arianna Fontana, Marta Capurso and the Zini cousins, Katia and Mara.
Appolo Ohno (USA) 2010©Getty Images
The USA’s Short Track suit for Vancouver 2010 was a masterpiece of simplicity. Light blue with dark sleeves and legs, accompanied by a simple swoosh and the Stars and Stripes, it now reminds us most of Ohno, who became the most decorated USA winter Olympic athlete of all time thanks to two bronzes at his third Games. He accessorized it perfectly with an excellent glove – perfect for #OneHandDown – with silver fingertips.
Victor An (RUS) 2014© Getty Images
Some kits divide opinions, and Russia’s effort for their home Olympic Games at Sochi 2014 was certainly one of them: the designs were elaborate to say the least. But the Short Track suits were a thing of wonder: all white with more subtle swirling designs along the arms and a bold ‘RU’ on the front, they looked fantastic as Viktor An dominated the Men’s event and a young Sofia Prosvirnova got her first taste of Olympic action.
Choi Min-jeong (KOR) 2018©AFP
If you’re going to host a party, you’d better put your best kit on – and the Republic of Korea certainly didn’t disappoint at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. From their ultra-modern track jackets to their racing suits, the world’s dominant Short Track nation looked suitably fierce on the ice at the Gangneung Ice Arena. Choi Min-jeong and company sported a black and white zip-up suit with a Korean red and blue swoosh through the middle, topped off by their roaring lion helmets – and asserted themselves accordingly.