Short-track speedskating was one of the hardest tickets to get at the last winter games in Vancouver, and for good reason: Nothing matches its combination of speed, intensity, and tension. Think of it as a round-robin–style roller derby tournament on ice.
Short-track races are, in a word, hectic. The eventual four-person medal round begins with a field of 32 skaters that is progressively whittled down during four-person heats. Every competitor knows that his or her medal chances are on the line every single time a foot is put to ice, and so the fight for position is a battle for survival from the get-go. Add to that the bumping, pushing, shoving, and struggles to overtake the lead at every turn, along with the fair chance of wiping out, and you have all the elements of high drama. "Short track is an incredible sport just based on the fact that you're not out there alone," says Jayner. "The fact that the focus is more on strategy and less on pure speed or time makes it the most exciting sport during the games."