US blames suits for speedskating losses

While the Dutch win one medal after another, the US skaters are at a loss over their not making it to the podium. Fingers point at the Mach 39 racing suit from Under Armour, developed with the help of Lockheed Martin. 'If the entire U.S. team is underperforming compared to our potential, you can only look at so many factors.

Is it the suit? Is it the preparation? The suit is the easiest thing to fix,' said Brian Hansen, who finished ninth in the 1,000m Wednesday. The new suit has not been tested in any competition prior to the Games. The skaters only got to see the suits after making the Olympic team. However, the suits were not the only change the skaters were confronted with. Prior to the Games almost all 17 US skaters spent 10 days in the Collalbo in the mountains of northern Italy to train at high altitude, a common strategy. The Italian track was outdoor and windy, and lacked a stationary bike for warm up. Coach Ryan Shimabukuro defends that decision, however, pointing out that's where the skaters trained before the Turin games, and other teams trained there too. Under Armour's Kevin Haley points out that 'while a multitude of factors ultimately determines on-ice success, many skaters have posted personal-best sea-level heat time, split times or race times,' and stands behind the new suit. Fact is, that whatever the reason the top US skaters fail to perform, chances are the skaters may switch out the Mach 39 with its dimples to make the suit slippery in the wind and a slick fabric inside the thighs to reduce friction, for the old suits, also from Under Armour, that have already proven themselves in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. So far, it's an unanswered question whether the men will wear the Mach 39 or their old suits when the Games resume on Saturday. The last time the U.S. didn't win any medals in speed skating was in the Sarajevo Games in 1984. Will history repeat itself?

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