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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Is flaw with new suits hurting Olympic speedskaters?

Shani Davis

Some poor results among U.S. speedskaters at the Olympics in Sochi has led the team’s coaches to question what is causing the unexpected problems. According to the Wall Street Journal, the speedskating coaches believe a flaw with the new speedskating suits is hurting the athletes.

Here’s what The Journal wrote in an article published on Thursday:

According to three people familiar with the U.S. team, these suits—which were designed by apparel sponsor Under Armour and billed before the Games as a major advantage—have a design flaw that may be slowing the skaters down. These people said that vents on back of the suit, designed to allow heat to escape, are allowing air to enter the suit and create drag that keeps the skaters from staying in the “low” position they need to achieve maximum speed. One skater said team members felt they were fighting the suit to maintain correct form.

No American has finished better than seventh in any of the six events so far, including Shani Davis, who won gold in the 1,000 meter at the last two Olympics but finished eighth this year.

An Under Armour executive told The Journal that they believe the suits are fast, but since they have not translated to medals, they will do anything to make changes to improve results. Several skaters have even taken their suits to an Under Armour seamstress to have a piece of rubber added to the flap.

Though Under Armour put the suits through extensive testing to make them as good as possible, this is the first the skaters have worn them in competition, which seems like a mistake.

Davis refused to blame the suit for his slower than expected times, but many people believe the suit has a lot to do with it. A Dutch team suit designer even said he had experimented with an opening a few years ago, but he found out that it was slowing the skaters down.

It sure as heck sounds to me like Under Armour needs to make a big change — now. It’s too late to fix past problems, but maybe they can get things figured out for the remaining events.

H/T Fourth-Place Medal



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