In 1971, the ISU congress decided to hold a World Junior Speed Skating Championships. After 2 test-championships (1972 and 1973), where only boys were allowed to skate, the first official championship was introduced in Cortina d'Ampezzo. In this championship boys and girls can enter. Since this championship the World Junior Speed Skating Championships are held every year.
The distances the boys have to skate in a championship are the 500m, 1500m, 3000m and the 5000m. Girls have the 500m, 1000m, 1500m and the 3000m on the programme. In 2002 the team pursuit was added to the allround competition and the 2009 edition saw the introduction of medals for the individual distances.