Posted February 14, 2014

Report: U.S. speedskating team requests to switch suits

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American speedskater Heather Richardson failed to finish in the top six in her first two events. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

American Heather Richardson failed to finish in the top six in her first two events. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Amid speculation that poor performance by American speedskaters in Sochi might be linked to the team’s new uniforms, U.S. Speedskating will request to revert back to old uniforms for remaining competition, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell and the Wall Street Journal.

The proposed swap, which must be approved by the IOC, comes a day after the Wall Street Journal first reported that the team’s new Under Armour suits might be to blame for the U.S. delegation’s failures at the Games. No American speedskater medaled or even placed in the top five in any of the first six events, even though Americans were expected to perform well.

(An earlier version of the ESPN report stated that the team was changing its suits, but the story has since been updated.)

SI WIRE: Report: Under Armour suits may be contributing to American speedskating troubles

From Rovell’s report:

The team would ditch the suits it wore in the first six events in Sochi — when no American finished among the top five — and wear earlier versions made by the same manufacturer, Under Armour.

The suits the Americans would use are the same ones they wore at last month’s World Cup in Japan. They are different from the newer suits in that they don’t have venting in the back or the flow molding meant to give skaters an advantage by helping their bodies better cut through the air.

Prior to the Olympics, the new uniforms were lauded as the fastest ever. Relying on complex physical analysis of how speedskating affects the body, engineers from Under Armour and technology and defense firm Lockheed Martin designed the suits specifically for the Sochi Games.

But according to the Wall Street Journal, vents on the back of the suit were allowing air to come inside the skin, allegedly slowing down skaters. The vents were originally intended to let heat escape the body, but instead may have prevented American competitors like two-time defending men’s 1,000 meter gold medalist Shani Davis from performing their best. Davis finished eighth in the 1,000 meters.

Another American favorite, Heather Richardson, also disappointed in the ladies’ 500 and 1,000 meters, finishing eighth and seventh, respectively.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal about the request to switch uniforms, not all American speedskaters are on board with the swap.

The request doesn’t guarantee that American skaters will be wearing different suits when competition resumes on Saturday afternoon, should the International Skating Union and the International Olympic Committee sign off.

The team is currently split into two groups: those who want to stick with the current model and those who would revert to a suit they used while racking up victories throughout the fall.

International Skating Union rules mandate that a team’s uniforms must be consistent, meaning that either all or none of the speedskating team will have to change their uniforms if the switch is approved, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The men’s and ladies’ 1,500 meter speedskating events take place this Saturday and Sunday.

NEWCOMB: U.S. Speedskating finds edge with high-tech engineered skins


4 comments
graymer714
graymer714

I would be shocked if these suits were not tested in a wind tunnel as part of their development, and proven to be as good or better than the previous suits. Sounds like sour grapes, and also bad public relations as the sponsoring companies will be inclined to drop their support of US skating as a result of this bad publicity.

MrArlington
MrArlington

It is clearly a crutch. How would they not have tested these suits prior to the event?

AmySkene
AmySkene

This is so dumb on so many levels.  Who's idea is it to basically test a new suit DURING the Olympics?!  Frankly, I'm American and I say they should have to live with the bad decision - the decision to wear an untested suit they thought would give them an advantage.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  

Hello1813
Hello1813

Don't the skaters try the suits out before they actually race in them?