Initially claimed to be "the world's fastest speed skating suit," Under Armour's all-in-one was blamed for the poor performance of U.S. athletes in Sochi. Now, an official report confirms that to have been the case, mainly because they showed up too late and got everyone off kilter.
The late introduction of the suits, maybe moreso than the actual suits themselves, was apparently "one in a series of crucial mistakes" made on the lead-up to the Winter Olympics—but perhaps the biggest. Ted Morris, the executive director of US Speedskating, explains to the Wall Street Journal:
"The idea that we would give these game-changers to our athletes right before the Olympics and they would get to the line and feel like they had an advantage, that did not work. The lesson there is that if we have game-changers like that, let's introduce them in December, not February."
The suits, riddled with Lockheed Martin DNA, were claimed at the time of the Olympics to slow the skaters down. It seemed that vents on rear of the suit, put in place to allow heat to escape, actually allow air to enter—in turn creating dragin turn creating drag. That kept the skaters a little more upright than usual, meaning they can't quite reach maximum speed. One skater went as far to claim that team members "felt they were fighting the suit to maintain correct form."
Whether it this part of the suits' design that caused the problem, or just the stress of having an unfamiliar uniform with a different feel thrown into the mix at the last second, the team eventually switched to an older model of the suit, but too late to recover form and mental focus—and the results bore that out. The U.S. speedskating team suffered its worst performance in 30 years.
Elsewhere, the report suggests that the team shouldn't have trained at high altitude and outdoors in Italy ahead of the Games. Sochi's skating was indoors and at sea level, and it's thought that the altitude conditions masked a dip in form which would have otherwise been spotted. Also: those damn suits. Under Armor has yet to make a formal comment. [WSJ]