Sources: Design Flaw In Under Armour Suits May Be Slowing Down U.S. Speedskaters
U.S. Speedskating has had a disappointing performance so far during the Sochi Games, and one possible reason may be the “high-tech racing suits the team adopted” from Under Armour, according to Robinson & Germano of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Three sources said that the suits -- which had been billed prior to the Games as a “major advantage -- have a design flaw that may be slowing the skaters down.” The sources added that the “vents on the back of the suit, designed to allow heat to escape, are allowing air to enter the suit and create drag that keeps the skaters from staying in the ‘low’ position they need to achieve maximum speed.” Robinson & Germano reported several speedskaters, including Heather Richardson, “sent their suits to an Under Armour seamstress Thursday to have the panel modified with an extra piece of rubber.” Richardson, who holds the world record in the 1,000 meters, finished seventh in Thursday’s race, the best finish by any American heading into Friday’s action. UA Senior VP/Innovation Kevin Haley said that the company was “confident that the suits were fast.” However, he added execs will “move heaven and earth to make them better.” Robinson & Germano noted UA has sponsored U.S. Speedskating since ’11, though their deal “expires after these Games.” The U.S. team tested the suits “over the last month in simulated race conditions, but had never worn it in competition until this week.” U.S. national coach Ryan Shimabukuro “declined to discuss the performance of the suits or Under Armour.” He said, “I’m not going to criticize them, even if I was allowed to. They’re a great partner. And it’d be stupid to criticize a company that has backed us completely” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/14).
MANY FACTORS DETERMINE SUCCESS: U.S. Speedskating Exec Dir Ted Morris indicated that “many factors determine Olympic success.” He said in a statement, “We are constantly making adjustments to improve results.” Haley added that many skaters “have posted personal-best sea-level heat times, split times or race times this week.” Baltimore-based advertising and marketing firm IMRE Dir of Sports Marketing Matt Saler said that he “didn’t believe questions raised over the suit would hurt the Under Armour brand.” Saler: “It’s not a type of clothing material that’s purchased by the mainstream consumer, and I don’t think most Olympics fans would associate Under Armour with the reason the athlete is not medaling” (Baltimore SUN, 2/14).