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Under Armour Suits To Blame For U.S. Speedskating Losses?

According to The Wall Street Journal, some close to the U.S. speedskating team speculate the new, hi-tech suits are slowing them down.
Posted at 10:21 PM, Feb 14, 2014

So far, U.S. long track speedskaters have yet to medal — or even get close to the podium — in Sochi. And some say their flashy, skin-tight threads are literally holding them back.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. long track speedskating team started taking a second look at their Under Armour suits after two-time Olympic gold-medalist Shani Davis placed eighth in the 1,000m. What they found was a possible design flaw. 

Under Armour partnered with Lockheed Martin, an aerospace, defense and security company, to develop and test the Mach 39 — the suits worn by the team. (Via CBS)

According to Gizmodo, Under Armour calls their Mach 39 "the world's fastest speedskating suit." But unnamed sources close to the U.S. team said the vent on the back of the suit is slowing people down. 

The Wall Street Journal reported the vents were designed to let heat escape, but they also reportedly let air into the suit creating drag. The paper reports one skater who was not named felt like they were fighting the suit. 

According to ESPN, the team now has plans to possibly ditch the suits and wear an earlier version from Under Armour that doesn't have the vent. 

Kevin Haley, the senior vice president of innovation at Under Armour told Businessweek the questions the U.S. speedskating team is asking about the suits are fair, but defended the products saying, "The bottom line here is we’re confident in all three of the suits we’ve provided to the U.S. speedskating team, and we’re rooting for our athletes."

Ted Morris, executive director of USA Speed Skating said in a statement there's no evidence to suggest the suits are hurting the athletes. And Shani Davis also told The Wall Street Journal he didn't feel the suit was to blame for his results. 

But a Slate writer says Under Armour, who has a partnership with the U.S. speedskating team and is a sponsor for the Sochi Olympics, is losing right along with the U.S. skaters: "The Mach 39 has become the New Coke of skintight, high-performance skating outfits—an object of mockery and derision, a colossal flop on the biggest possible stage—and Under Armour looks inept instead of innovative."

None of the top U.S. speedskaters, including Davis and three-time gold medalist Heather Richardson, have placed higher than seventh. Although the team has gotten permission from Olympic officials to change suits, it is not yet known if they will do so.