By Sportswriters Liu Yang, Ling Xin and Niu Mengtong
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- For the first time in the history of Winter Olympics as well as Winter Youth Olympics, the speed skating race will take place on the lake. While visually stunning, the natural track needs a lot more maintaining work to be fit for competitions.
The speed skating of the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games will determine the first gold on Sunday on the outdoor natural rink on the Lake St. Moritz. The venue opened for training on Saturday and most of the athletes are trying to get used to the natural ice. For the young skaters, it'd be a good experience and a great challenge to compete on the lake ice with mountains around.
"It's not easy to build a natural rink, because it is a warm winter," said Jan Caflisch, sport manager of speed skating oval on the Lake St. Moritz, "Ten days ago, it was just frozen thin. People can walk on it but we couldn't bring machines to the lake."
Caflisch, a former Swiss speed skater, was pretty nervous and worried about if they could finish building the rink before games start, because the team has only three guys and it seems to be a mission impossible without the help of cars and machines.
The ice crew has to wait until the ice was 25 centimeters thick and they did the test with big machine of five tons to make sure that no sinks would happen. They were allowed to bring the machines to help the ice-building and tents construction a few days ago.
Many volunteers came to help the crew on Friday night and they worked on their knees to fill the cracks and polish the ice till late midnight.
"The cracks happened all the time on the ice. We're trying to fill the ice with snow and water by hands," said Caflisch, "we were doing this for hours to make the ice smooth. We'll do it every day after the training and the competition."
When the sun is gone and the temperature changes, the ice moves and cracks and the same thing happen in the morning. During the race, the ice crew also has to take care of the potential cracks and to look for places where the maintaining works are needed.
The ice team has a Plan B in case that the Lake St. Moritz were not frozen to standards.
"There is another lake around and it has the ice as thick as half-meter there, but it was black ice (ice without snow on the surface) where people could be easily slide and fall far." said Caflisch.
"Basically we were preparing both rinks at the same time. The ice crew was working day and night to make sure we have an alternative."
Currently, Switzerland has no indoor 400-meter speed skating oval around the entire nation. In the Winter Olympics in 1928 and 1948 hosted in St. Moritz, the speed skating races were held in outdoor rinks, but not on the lake.
The Swiss National Championships of Speed Skating took place here on the lake last year and it'll be held here again after the Youth Olympics. The local traditional racing event of skikjoring (horse-riding ski) was also organized here on the ice lake.
"The winter season is becoming shorter. It could be till the end of Feb this season, or some days in March if we're lucky," said Caflisch.
"I could see from the training session that most of the young athletes couldn't handle the natural ice well. Sometimes you have to adapt the different ice and surroundings. The ice is 28-29 centimeters today and it looks better and we're looking forward to the games tomorrow."
The lake rink will be open for the public every day after the competition during the Olympics.