SOCHI, Russia — About midway through the Winter Olympics, U.S. speedskater Patrick Meek had just finished his workout for the day.
At the time, Meek and his teammates were still competing in Under Armour's Mach 39 race suit, designed for and debuted at these Games. The much-hyped suit had emerged as the prime suspect in a growing controversy over the U.S. team's performance, which had included no long-track medals for the first time since 1984.
Some racers already had covered a flap on the back to try to limit drag. What else could be done on the fly to the suits or for the racers or anything else to turn the tide?
Meek playfully answered the questions with one of his own: "Do you have Finn Halvorsen's email address?"
The debacle in Russia came on the heels of one of the country's most successful World Cup seasons in years with 28 medals.
How did it all go so wrong? The U.S. Olympic Committee already has promised a thorough investigation, though it also had made clear its support for its partnership with Under Armour and extended its contract through the 2022 Games. Halvorsen and coaches said they will wait for a full analysis.
"The mature people in US Speedskating will take the responsibility," said Kip Carpenter, a national team coach who won a 2002 bronze medal in the 500. "Coaches will take responsibility. Athletes should take responsibility. Long-track upper management should take responsibility."
Long-track upper management begins with Halvorsen, 66, the director of US Speedskating's high-performance team. Outside the small world of speedskating, few have much reason to have heard of him.
He and speedskating's governing body now are in an unflattering spotlight, facing questions not only about racing suits but also training programs, including how skaters balance time at altitude and at sea level. Experts in the sport also questioned U.S. skaters' technique at sea level on the Adler Arena ice.
The fiasco comes barely two years after a skate-tampering scandal and other problems involving its short-track program that led to the overhaul of US Speedskating. Short-track, meanwhile, took the federation's only medal — a silver in the men's 5,000 relay.
After Halvorsen initially agreed to a Tribune interview, US Speedskating chief executive Ted Morris said he wanted to answer questions at the same time with Halvorsen.
Afterward, Halvorsen talked more with the Tribune.
"It is really, really bugging me that we have not performed well," he said. "It is very tough."
US Speedskating's Olympic preparation was mapped out four years ago. At about 300 pages, the document was submitted to the USOC for approval. Annual updates and progress reports in the spring followed. The process determines funding by the USOC.
Halvorsen took the lead in crafting the plan, but it's up to US Speedskating's team of coaches, trainers and specialists to implement it. Halvorsen's job includes providing guidance, monitoring athletic progress and analyzing equipment.
Halvorsen first worked with U.S. skaters in the 1970s and became the country's long-track director in 1998. He crafted America's successful program in Salt Lake City that led to eight Olympic medals in 2002. After leaving for a stint with Canada's national team that ended unceremoniously in 2010, Halvorsen returned to US Speedskating.
And then, on to Sochi.
"This is a catastrophe beyond my wildest fears," Paul Marchese, a federation specialist for 10 years before he was let go last year, told the Tribune recently. "I thought things would unravel and fail to a certain degree here, but I never would have predicted it would unravel this badly."