After a series of disappointing and puzzling results for the U.S. speed skating team at the Sochi Olympics, the new Under Armour/Lockheed Martin suit that the skaters are wearing for the first time in competition is coming under fire.
Three people associated with the team told Joshua Robinson and Sara Germano of the Wall Street Journal that the suit has a “design flaw” that could be slowing down the skaters.
According to the WSJ, vents in the back of the suit that are designed to let out heat are actually letting in air. As a result, the suits are effectively inflating, creating drag.
“The suit was blowing itself up,” said Bert van der Tuuk, a Dutch suit designer who tested out a similar back vent a few years ago. The Dutch are destroying everyone in Sochi, winning 12 of 18 medals across six events, including four gold medals.
One Dutch coach literally laughed at the U.S. for wearing the suits. From the WSJ:
“The new American suits had become a topic of conversation among rival teams at the Adler Arena’s morning practice session Thursday. Overhearing a conversation about the U.S. skins on his way to the rink, a Dutch coach shouted with a chuckle, ‘Are you talking about the suits? They’re slower!'”
The report comes after some high-profile American skaters underperformed.
Shani Davis was going for his third-straight Olympic gold in his signature event, the 1000m. He finish eighth, and sounded devoid of answers after the race when an NBC reporter asked him what went wrong.
He told the WSJ, “I would like to think that it’s not the suit. 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.”
Note that Davis not wanting to blame the suit isn’t the same as saying the suit isn’t an issue.
In the women’s 1000m on Thursday, American favourite Heather Richardson finished 7th, and American world-record holder Brittany Bowe finished 8th.
The U.S. won four speed skating medals in Vancouver in 2010. They’ve been shut out this year.
The “Mach 39” suit, which was designed by Under Armour with the help of Lockheed Martin, was hyped as the the fastest suit ever. Under Armour says it put it through 300 hours of wind tunnel testing.
Americans started using the suits in January, but this is the first time they’re using them in competition, the WSJ reports.
We’ve reached out to Under Armour for comment.
Here’s what the company told the Journal:
“Kevin Haley, the senior vice president of innovation for Under Armour, which has sponsored the U.S. team since 2011, said all of the feedback he has received thus far about the suits has been positive. He said he was confident that the suits were fast, but that since they weren’t translating into medals, ‘we’ll move heaven and earth to make them better.'”
The next big tests comes Saturday, when Davis races in the 1500m.
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