This week's column:
Nose, Knees, Toes ... Really?
May 9, 2012
Hi, Bill: I’ve always been taught that the proper skating position is wth the nose, knees, and toes aligned in a vertical fashion. But recently, I’ve noticed that some elite skaters put their bodies (heads and shoulders) way out in front of their knees and toes.
This picture of Bart Swings from the Berlin Half Marathon is a good example. His knees and toes are aligned, but his head is out in front of the rest of his body.
Is this an evolution of form or is something else in play here? - Ron from Minneapolis.
Hi, Ron from Minneapolis: I have in front of me what I call my “million dollar coaching picture.”
It’s the finish of the women’s marathon of the World Inline Cup race at St. Moritz/Engadine in the 2006. It shows the five leaders — Nicole Begg, Sandra Gomez, Giovanna Turchiarelli, Nathalie Barbotin and Tamara Llorens (all great skaters) — at full sprint, 50 meters from the line.
All of them are at least as far forward as Bart Swings in your photo.
Head forward is — and has been — the correct position for speed skaters.
The reason for this is that you need to get low in order to generate speed. And getting low involves bending the knees, lowering the butt and bending forward.
Note that in the Bart Swings’ photo his butt is down, his knee is over his toes, and his trunk is at a nearly 90-degree angle.
Take a look at this photo of my daughter.
From the front, you can see that her nose, knees and toes are aligned vertically at a 105-degree angle.
But a side view would reveal that her nose is ahead of her knees and toes.
Whoever taught you the nose-knees-toes alignment was giving you beginners advice.
If you skate that way, the pros will call you a "Barney."