The United States thought it had the fastest speedskating suits in the world, but after struggling in the initial races of the Sochi Winter Olympics, the U.S. speedskating team is going back to an old suit in hopes of some new luck.
On Friday, the Americans received permission to wear the Under Armour suits the team wore during World Cup competition last December.
"We want to put the athletes in the best possible position when they're stepping on the ice to be 100 percent confident in their ability to capture a spot on the podium," Kevin Haley, vice president of innovation for suit developer Under Armour, told The Associated Press.
Initially, the Americans thought the newly designed suits, which are called the “Mach 39,” would give them the technological edge over their Sochi competition. But early struggles proved the opposite. Some of the main criticism is in the design. There’s a mesh panel on the back of the suit, which some athletes believe is causing excess drag. But there's been debate whether it's the suit or the skating that's really cause for concern. Heather Richardson had a piece of rubber placed on the mesh panel of her suit prior to the women’s 1,000 meters. She still finished seventh.
"We are constantly evaluating all aspects of race preparation and execution to help our athletes improve their output and maximize their physical and psychological advantages," U.S. Speedskating president Mike Plant said in the statement. "Under Armour's mission is to make all athletes better, and they are working tirelessly with Team USA to ensure each athlete steps on the ice with 100% confidence so they are positioned to capture a spot on the podium. U.S. Speedskating is proud of its long-term, successful partnership with Under Armour, and we all look forward to the upcoming races."
The U.S. was outfitted with three racing suits: the Mach 39, which has been worn by most of the skaters, a similar suit to the Mach 39, which has some slight modifications, and the World Cup suit. One skater wore the modified Mach 39 suit with no change in time. None have worn the World Cup suit during competition in Sochi.
Haley told the Associated Press that the new suits -- both the Mach 39 and the one similar to it -- tested faster than the World Cup suits. Lockheed Martin, which is one of the leading companies in aerospace and defense, developed the technology.
Even if the technology isn’t better, the mental edge of changing to a suit that has won in the past will provide some confidence and peace of mind to U.S. skaters moving forward, most notably men’s skaters Shani Davis and Brian Hansen, who are racing in the 1,500 meters on Saturday.
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