Under Armour Inc., the sportswear maker sponsoring the U.S. speedskating team at the Winter Olympics, batted back reports that its suits are slowing down skaters at the Sochi Games.
The Baltimore-based company came under fire for its suits after no American finished better than seventh place in the six speedskating events held as of last night. The U.S. won four medals in speedskating in the 2010 Vancouver Games. Some have blamed a design flaw in the suits' rear ventilation panels, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier, citing three unidentified people familiar with the U.S. team.
"The organization is reaching the conclusion it's not the suits," Kevin Haley, Under Armour's senior vice president for innovation, said in an interview. "The bottom line is there are multiple variables that go into the final result, and because these are great athletes who have given everything they have to train for this event for the last four years, everyone is searching for answers to the the question of why haven't these athletes stepped up on the podium."
Under Armour removed the ventilation panels for all four women before the 1000-meter race and didn't see any difference in times, Haley said. One competitor in the men's 1,000 wore another suit that had a vent but didn't have the body flow- molded polyurethane shapes and also didn't see a difference in results. The "vast majority" of adjustments to the suits have been for comfort, Haley said.
A skater doesn't lose a second in the 1,000-meter race "because of a skin suit," Kip Carpenter, the U.S. skating coach, told reporters. "Anyone who thinks that, does not know speed skating. In my opinion, the Dutch are just sitting deeper and pushing harder. They are just skating better than us."