The United States speedskating team was expected to bring home a slew of medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics, but so far the squad’s performance in Sochi has been brutal. Late this week it emerged that the Americans’ new high-tech Under Armour suits could be the problem. Now the team will go back to using old suits – which were also made by Under Armour – in an effort to improve performance.
Through the first six events in Sochi, no American speedskater finished better than seventh, despite the team featuring some of the sport’s top competitors. Members of the team and even opposing coaches and competitors believe the new suits were holding the Americans back. They will now use the same suits they wore at last month’s World Cup in Japan.
The team had never worn the new suits in competition before they Olympics, but going into the Games Under Armour hyped them as giving the Americans a decided advantage. That hasn’t materialized. The newer suits have venting in the back and “flow molding” meant to give skaters an advantage by helping their bodies cut through the air more effectively.
The venting on the back of the new suits has reportedly been causing drag instead of improving performance. That has been a big part of the problem, and the old suits don’t have the venting.
The Americans were reportedly thrilled with the new suits after testing them in January and decided not to use them at the World Cup so they could debut them at the Olympics and surprise opponents. That has proven to be a huge miscalculation.
Another problem that might be holding the Americans back is the fact that they trained for these games at high-altitude on fast, clean ice. The ice at the Sochi rink is much slower and is considered “sloppier” which presents different challenges.
Regardless of what is really wrong with the U.S. speedskating team, the group’s performance in Sochi has been stunning. In a sport where Americans usually dominate, they have been shut out in these Olympics. Clearly something is wrong, whether it’s the suits or they way they trained.