It is believed that skates were developed about 3000 years ago in Scandinavia. In the Netherlands, skating served as a way to travel over the canals in winter and the Dutch are still among the world's most avid skaters.
Although the Netherlands is the birthplace of speed skating, the first known skating competition is thought to have been held in 1676.
Competitions sprung up across the northern part of Europe shortly after, but the first official speed skating events were not held until 1863 in Oslo, Norway.
In 1889, the Netherlands hosted the first World Championships, bringing together the Dutch, Russians, Americans and English. Speed Skating has been a part of the Olympic programme since the 1st Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix Mont Blanc in 1924.
Originally only men participated, but women's events were included in the 1960 Squaw Valley Games.
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