Host City: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Date Started: January 28, 1956
Date Finished: January 28, 1956
Participants: 83 (83 men and 0 women) from 18 countries
Youngest Participant: Alv Gjestvang (18 years, 137 days)
Oldest Participant: Finn Hodt (36 years, 227 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 3 athletes with 2 medals
Most Medals (Country): Soviet Union (7 medals)
The 1956 Olympic speed skating events took place on Lago di Misurina, a lake in the Italian Alps situated at an altitude of 1,754 m above sea level. The track on the lake was designed by the Swedish expert Gösta Nilsson, and was set on a large ice floe. To avoid cracks in the ice, a two meters lane had been made through the ice around the track, so it was literally an "island" of ice on the frozen lake. The lake is a mountain tarn, surrounded by high mountains, which protected it from wind and, with the altitude, made for a very fast track. In a test race a week before the Olympics, Soviet skater [Yevgeny Grishin] broke the 500 m world record, and he would equal that during the Olympics, and also break the 1,500 m world record during the Olympics.
And the fact that Grishin was a skater from the Soviet Union was the big news of the 1956 Olympic speed skating competition. Soviet skaters had never before competed in the Winter Olympics, although they had competed at the European and World Championships since 1953. [Oleg Goncharenko] won the 1953 World Championship, and in 1954, both all-around events were won by Soviet skater, [Boris Shilkov], who did compete in Cortina and won the 5,000 m. In Cortina, the Soviet Union was the top speed skating nation, winning three of the four events (save the 10,000), and seven of the 12 medals awarded. It is noteworthy that Soviet women had been competing internationally for longer than the men, and the 1950 World Championships were held in Moscow, but women still did not compete in Olympic speed skating in 1956, making their official début in 1960.