US Speedskating suspects Under Armour suits a factor in slow times

The new speedskating suits. (Under Armour/Handout)

Under Armour claimed its Mach 39 outperformed Nike’s Swift suit that debuted for the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Under Armour also told skaters the new suits were designed specifically for conditions inside Adler Arena Skating Center, with features such as dimples to make the suit slippery in the wind and a slick fabric inside the thighs to reduce friction.

The suits weren’t the only change from routine before the Games.

Nearly the entire contingent of the 17 U.S. speedskaters spent 10 days before the Olympics training in Collalbo in the mountains of northern Italy.

The strategy is common: train at higher altitudes to prepare for competition at sea level. However, unlike the U.S. team’s indoor facilities in high-altitude Salt Lake City, the Italian track was outdoor and windy. It also did not have a stationary bike to warm up.

Shimabukuro defended the decision and said training was done there before the Turin Games in 2006. Other teams in Sochi also trained at Collalbo before these Games.

Speedskating competition takes a day off Friday. When the men resume Saturday in the 1,500, will Davis, Hansen and their teammates being wearing the Mach 39? Is the race suit the U.S. team’s biggest problem? “I’m not going to comment on that,” Shimabukuro said.

Whether U.S. speedskaters race in Under Armour’s current or old suits, it’s clear something isn’t working for them Sochi.

“It’s hard to pinpoint one thing,” Bowe said. “Are we where we wanted to be? No. But that’s part of it and we move on from here.”

The U.S. has won 67 medals in speedskating, the most in any Winter Olympic sport for the country. The last time the U.S. failed to medal in speedskating? The 1984 Sarajevo Games.

The USOC did not return the Tribune’s request for comment.

Tribune reporter Philip Hersh contributed.

Twitter @jaredshopkins