After a disappointing performance thus far at the Sochi Winter Olympics, the U.S. speedskating team wants to return to the ice Saturday in an older Under Armour suit — the same one that scored them impressive results at the Olympic trials in December, the Associated Press reports.
The team’s original choice — an anticipated mash-up between Under Armour and Lockheed Martin known as the “Mach 39” — may contain a “design flaw,” multiple people associated with the team told the Wall Street Journal. The vents on the back, designed to let heat escape, may actually let air inside, potentially slowing the skaters.
The Americans received permission from Under Armour on Friday to revert to the older suits, Kevin Haley, the company’s vice president of innovation, told the AP.
“We want to put the athletes in the best possible position when they’re stepping on the ice to be 100 per cent confident in their ability to capture a spot on the podium,” Haley said by phone.
But the team still needs approval from the International Skating Union, The Chicago Tribute reports. Under ISU rules, all teams’ suits must remain consistent for the duration of the competition. The group hasn’t reach a decision yet.
“We don’t think (the suits) are having any impact, but at the same time, we want to make sure when our athletes get on that start line, they have confidence and are ready to go,” U.S. speedskating coach Ted Morris told the Tribune.
Before allowing the switch, Under Armour tried some minor alterations.
“They did adjust one part on the back, but it was just putting rubber over the mesh there,” star team member Heather Richardson told the AP. “It had no effect really.”
Richardson recently performed poorly after dominating in the qualifying rounds. In fact, no U.S. speedskater has medaled yet — likely the source of the controversy. And the team faces one more problem: not all the skaters brought their old suits with them, according to the Tribune. And not all of them want to switch.
“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is the most scientific suit in the whole world,” U.S. skater Patrick Meek told the AP. “These guys make F-16 fighter jets. If they can invade Afghanistan and Iraq, they can build a speedskating suit.”
UPDATE: In the early hours of Saturday morning in Russia, the national federation confirmed that the American speedskaters will change their uniforms, the Wall Street Journal reports.
They’ll use one of three options provided by Under Armour prior to Sochi.
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