US Speed Skating Team Switches to Old, More Aerodynamic Suits

The United States speed skating team is switching uniforms halfway through the Olympics. The switch has nothing to do with concerns about looking good. Instead, skaters have claimed that the previous suits, custom-made by Under Armour for the 2014 Winter Olympics, were causing drag and slowing the whole team down. So far, even with several medal contenders on the team, U.S. speed skaters have failed to make the podium.

The skating suit that has been used up to now, dubbed the Mach 39, has vents on the back to let out excess heat and help regulate body temperature. However, American speed skaters complained that the vents also created drag, slowing them down and costing them medals. The team was extremely successful at this fall's World Cup events – wearing a different suit that was also made by Under Armour. Team USA also used the old suit during the Olympic speed skating trials.

But while some are citing the speed skating suits' vents for the Americans' struggle, others are wary of blaming any one factor. Speed skater Patrick Meek told USA Today that people are taking the suit to task because "it's the easy thing to point to." Long track coach Matthew Kooreman agreed:

It's mental now; we have something that we've eliminated maybe one small piece of doubt that people had. Now mentally I think people are focused and they know it's on them to perform.

I think people now have something to kind of lock onto and say, "Ok, this is a change." Now it's up to us to perform. There's no excuses anymore.

The decision to switch back to the old suits was approved by Games officials early Saturday morning. Whether it has any effect will be determined immediately: the men's 1500m event is set for Saturday.

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