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Sochi Olympics: U.S. speedskaters get permission to change suits

Shani Davis, Heather Richardson and the other U.S. speedskaters are dumping the new Under Armour Mach 39 suit.

February 14, 2014|By Jared S. Hopkins
  • Shani Davis and the U.S. speedskating team will have a new look when they take the ice next at the Sochi Olympics, the team has received permission to use its suits last used at the World Cup.
Shani Davis and the U.S. speedskating team will have a new look when they… (Andrej Isakovic / Getty…)

SOCHI, Russia — When the speedskating competition resumes Saturday, the U.S. team will be on the ice with a familiar but new look.

US Speedskating received approval to drop Under Armour's much-hyped Mach 39 suit and revert back to the suits made by the apparel maker and worn during the speedskaters' successful World Cup competition this season.

Pressure for the change built this week in the wake of a disastrous performance through six events by a team with high expectations. No U.S. speedskater has won a medal, including the world's top-ranked skaters, Shani Davis and Heather Richardson.

FRAMEWORK: Best images from Sochi

The suit became the leading suspect for the poor showing because it was introduced only last month. Richardson attempted to modify her suit this week. The results were unsuccessful.

"For the remainder of the Winter Olympic Games, Team USA speedskaters will be wearing the previously approved Under Armour skin suits used during recent World Cup competition," Mike Plant, US Speedskating president, said early Saturday morning in a statement.

In Plant's statement he placed no blame or elaborated on the cause of the poor performance.

Ted Morris, US Speedskating chief executive, went further.

"We don't think [the suits] are having any impact," Morris said late Friday after meeting with staff and 17 skaters. "But at the same time we want to make sure when our athletes get on that start line they have confidence and are ready to go. That's priority No. 1."

The next race is the men's 1,500 meters in which Davis will compete.

The lack of any Olympic medals from a team that has won 67 medals — the most of any winter sport team for the U.S. — has thrown coaches into a frenzy searching for a way to salvage their Games.

The last time the U.S. failed to medal in speedskating? Sarajevo, 1984.

"We're scratching our heads to try and figure out a way to switch it up here with half the Games left to be played," Morris said.

Davis said Friday the hoopla over the suit would not distract him. After a tuneup in the 500 meters on Monday and disappointing eighth-place finish in the 1,000 on Wednesday, Davis is optimistic about his chances in the 1,500, likely his final individual Olympic race.

"Got to rebound from that 1,000. We still have it here," Davis said Friday, smiling and smacking his chest. "So let's get it on."

Under Armour has sponsored US Speedskating since 2011, well before the arrival last year of Morris. He and Plant became involved after the U.S. Olympic Committee overhauled the federation following a scandal in its short-track program.

Under Armour's Kevin Haley had stood behind the new suit. A spokeswoman had no comment on the potential swap.

Finn Halvorsen, the federation's high performance director, declined Friday to discuss the suit or reasons for the team's disappointing results until after skaters finish in Sochi on Feb. 22.

Twitter: @jaredshopkins

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