Before the Sochi Games kicked off, Team USA was raving about its new Under Armour-designed speed skating suits that were going to give it the ultimate competitive edge.
Now the coaches and athletes aren’t so sure.
An article published by the Wall Street Journal says Team USA reps have been poring over results data and they’re not liking what they’re seeing.
According to people familiar with the US team, the report says the suits have a design flaw that may be slowing the skaters down. These sources said that vents on back of the suit, designed to let heat escape, are allowing air to enter the suit and create drag, keeping the skaters from maintaining the ideal position for maximum speed.
Heather Richardson, the 1,000-meter world-record holder, was one of several skaters to send a suit to an Under Armour seamstress in Sochi to have the vent panel modified with an extra piece of rubber. Even after the alteration, Richardson finished seventh, more than a second slower than the winner.
Gold medal favorite Shani Davis placed a disappointing eigth in the men’s 1,500 meters and although he is hesitant to fault the suit, it has crossed his mind.
"I would like to think that it’s not the suit," Davis told the Wall Street Journal. "I would never blame the suit. I’d much rather blame myself. I just wasn’t able to do it today, but other people were."
This is not the first Olympic speed skating suit crisis for Team USA. In 2006, when the team was sponsored by Nike, it reverted to older-model suits shortly before the Olympics.
Suit problem or not, Under Armour’s sponsorship deal with US Speedskating expires after these Games.