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Speedskating will look slightly different at the Olympics this year. Here’s why

Having the lead skater switch places with teammates might soon be a thing of the past.

Out with the old and in with the new.

At the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Team USA is going to try a new speedskating technique that helped them knock off four seconds from their fastest time ever at the world championships last year.

The method involves the lead skater staying on at the front of the group.

Before, the lead skater would drop to the back of the skating group when they got tired or couldn't take the harsh winds anymore. But now, with the help of their teammates, who'll be pressing steadily on their back to push them forward, the lead skater will have just enough endurance and speed to make it through the entire race.

Team USA speed skating
The USA speedskating team opens up to TODAY about a new technique that they're trying at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.NBC / NBC

"It was an idea. And then it was put on paper. And we started to go back and forth on this and it was like, 'Wow.' It was an aha Big Bang moment of like, 'Why didn't we think of this before?'" US Speedskating High Performance Director Shane Domer told NBC News' Kerry Sanders.

The strategy was conceived by the U.S in 2018 when they were getting ready for the PyeongChang Olympic games. By studying Canadian geese flight formations, examining airflows like automakers and watching NASCAR races, they were able to determine a new cutting-edge strategy.

But Domer truly didn't know how good the technique was until he tested it out on his skaters in wind tunnels. That's when he found out that his team was skating faster by one to two percent, which is a big difference in the sport. Last year, the team debuted the method at a the speedskating world championships, and it shaved four seconds off their finishing time.

“Races in speedskating especially are won by tenths of a second, first, second, second, third, and so forth. So four seconds is a huge, huge advantage to have in your pocket," he said.


Team USA members in action during a practice session at the National Speed Skating Oval ahead of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games on January 30, 2022 in Beijing, China. on January 30, 2022 in Beijing, China.
The USA speedskating team opens up to TODAY about a new technique that they're trying at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.David Ramos / Getty Images

Emery Lehman, who will be skating in the No. 2 position for Team USA at the Olympics, noted that he became a true believer in the technique after he started doing it a couple of times with his team.

I'm "for sure a believer now," he said. "The best team pursuit I always say is the ones where you just don’t see me. You don’t see my face and you don’t even know I’m there. It just looks like there’s one person with maybe like six legs skating.”

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