Caitlin Gallagher
February 09, 2018 5:32 pm
Alex Goodlett - ISU/ISU via Getty Images

While you can easily understand why an Olympic athlete who competes in an outdoor sport would want to shield their eyes from the sun, have you ever wondered why speed skaters wear sunglasses? As you’ll be reminded of during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, speed skating events take place indoors in a rink. So why do so many of them rock sunglasses? Is it because speed skaters are just inherently cooler humans than the most of us? While they are cooler than most people (hey, they do compete on cold ice, har har), the real reason actually has to do with safety and performance.

There are two types of speed skating — short track speed skating and long track speed skating, with the latter being referred to as simply “speed skating.” The (somewhat obvious) difference is that long track athletes compete for longer distances. So due to the shorter nature of short track speed skating, Cascade Speedskates notes that short track athletes have to wear more protective gear since the risk of falling or colliding with other skaters is higher than in long track.

Yet, whether an athlete does short or long track skating doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to sunglasses. According to the NBC Olympics page, most speed skaters wear some kind of eyewear to stop their eyes from tearing up due to the wind. Considering that short track speed skaters like Maame Biney can be moving as fast as 30 mph, that’s completely understandable.

Cascade Speedskates also notes that the glasses protect from ice chips that might fly up. Plus, even though they are competing indoors, the glare of the lights off the ice can be intense, so eyewear helps with visibility.

But the eyewear isn’t a requirement. For example, long track skaters Heather Bergsma (who qualified for four events at the PyeongChang Olympics) and Brittany Bowe (who is at her second Olympics after competing at the 2014 Sochi Olympics), don’t always wear them.

But long track skater Erin Jackson, who is joining Biney in making history when it comes to diversity in speed skating, often rocks them.

Stacy Revere/Getty Images

It’s really a matter of preference when it comes to shades in speed skating. So see if your fave speed skaters are rocking them when both the short track and long track competitions kick off on February 10th at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.