American speedskaters are having their worst Winter Olympics in three decades, so far. Shani Davis -- the back-to-back gold medalist in the 1,500 meters and the current world record holder -- finished eighth in the 1,500-meter race.
Then the women's 1,000-meter race on Thursday yielded no U.S. medals. The U.S. speedskating team questioned everything from race strategy to skate blades, reports the Wall Street Journal, and a suspect emerged: the racing suits.
U.S. Speedskating covered a meshed area on the back of the suit worn by Heather Richardson, the top-ranked women’s skater in the world, who finished seventh in the 1,000 meters, says The Baltimore Sun. The mesh was designed to vent the athlete’s body, but some worried it was creating drag.
Under Armour founder Kevin Plank calls the issue “a bit of a head scratcher.” He says the company has a full team on the ground in Sochi to make adjustments and help the team to bring home gold.
Now U.S. speedskating officials are working to get approval to race in skin suits worn during World Cup competition. Some skaters brought their old suits with them to Sochi, while some will have to be delivered.
Brian Hansen, who skated in the 500 and 1,000 meter races, told the Sun: “If the entire U.S. team is underperforming compared to our potential — literally everyone — you can only look at so many factors. Is it the suit? Is it our preparation? The suit’s the easiest thing to fix.”
In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Plank said, “When you’re not performing you look at everything, from the training to the gear to the skates to the pillows you slept on the night before. It’s all very fair.”