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Report: Under Armour suits may be contributing to American speedskating troubles

A gold medal favorite, Shani Davis has disappointed so far in Sochi. (Mark Reis/Colorado Springs Gazette/MCT) A gold medal favorite, Shani Davis has disappointed so far in Sochi. (Mark Reis/Colorado Springs Gazette/MCT)

New high-tech suits designed by Under Armour specifically for the Olympics may be a factor in the U.S. speedskating team's disappointing performances at the Olympics, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Shani Davis was widely expected to contend for a gold medal in the men's 1,000 meters, but he instead finished eighth in Wednesday's contest. Meanwhile, no American woman medaled in the women's 1,000. There have been six events through Thursday, and Americans have not finished higher than seventh place in any of them.

According to the report, U.S. speedskating officials and coaches have tried to determine the cause of these failures, and sources close to the team told the Wall Street Journal that the Under Armour suits worn by American competitors could be to blame.

The new suits, designed specifically for these Olympics, are suspected of slowing down speedskaters through a glitch in design. From the WSJ: 

According to three people familiar with the U.S. team, these suits—which were designed by apparel sponsor Under Armour and billed before the Games as a major advantage—have a design flaw that may be slowing the skaters down. These people said that vents on 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. One skater said team members felt they were fighting the suit to maintain correct form.

Davis stressed after his race that he preferred not to blame the suit for his failures.

"I would like to think that it's not the suit," said two-time gold medalist Shani Davis, who finished eighth in the 1,000 despite dominating this season's World Cup circuit. "I would never blame the suit. I'd much rather blame myself. I just wasn't able to do it today, but other people were."

Under Armour's design for the suits came from an intricate analysis of speedskating science and dynamics. The result was the "Mach 39" suit, which promised to be the fastest suit ever.

The Baltimore-based apparel company partnered with advanced technology and defense firm Lockheed Martin to create a uniform that involves five different textiles, all of which have a different purpose, such as lessening friction. Overall, engineers of the suit wanted to focus on the aerodynamics of the entire body, first analyzing how air interacted with the body and using that data to develop a technologically advanced, physics-driven design.

Under Armour's contract with U.S. speedskating is set to expire at the conclusion of the Sochi Games.

NEWCOMB: U.S. Speedskating finds edge with high-tech engineered Under Armour Mach 39 skins

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