Strategy is always shifting.
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As pivotal a role as luck plays, it obviously isn't the only important factor. Jayner says that winning depends on the execution of a smart, well-thought-out game plan. He says that racing strategies not only vary race by race, but also skater by skater. "I have strengths, and the other guys on the ice all have strengths, so in a sense you're really just in a chess game, trying to outsmart them," Jayner says. "You're thinking, How can I optimize my strengths, while diminishing his?"

Part of what makes short track so exciting is that there is no one right way to skate a race. For instance, there are advantages to being at the front of the pack, but just as many for biding your time at the rear. "Being at the front, you're out of harm's way – but at the same time, you're breaking the wind, so it's close to 40 percent harder to lead the pack than it is to sit in the back," he says. It's a high-stakes game of cat and mouse on skates, which is why watching a heat unfurl is always tension filled.