Under Armor is defending its high-tech racing suits against claims that they are to blame for the U.S.’ speedskaters’ dismal Olympic performance - insisting their suits are “capable of winning medals.”
The suit manufacturer acknowledged it received complaints from athletes last week that a back vent, designed to keep athletes cool, could be possibly slowing them down.
Kevin Haley, senior vice president for innovation at Under Armour, said they immediately worked to cover the vent with the same fabric that is on the front of the suit – and that the American women in the 1000 meter race competed in the modified suit.
Skater Joey Mantia event tried the new suit without the aerodynamic elements, he said.
“It didn’t change anything,” Haley said. “The athletes were fast, but the medals were not there.”
US Speedskating President Mike Plant told the Baltimore Sun that the team is considering reverting to the old suits.
But US Speedskating’s top executive said in a statement that the evidence “does not suggest that the suits have contributed to the disappointing results to date.”
“We’re working with our athletes, coaches, trainers and Under Armour to figure out what we can do to produce better results for Team USA at these Winter Olympic Games,” Ted Morris, executive director of U.S. Speedskating said.
A spokeswoman for the US Speedskating said they are focusing on the competition – but promised an update before the race on Saturday.
Under Armour provided each member of the U.S. Speedskating team with three suits for the Sochi Olympics. One was the brand new Mach 39 suit, which has special aerodynamic elements that were developed together with fighter jet maker Lockheed Martin and tested in wind tunnels.
The other two suits were the new model without those aerodynamic elements and a version of the suit the team wore previously.
“We are confident in the three different suits that we’ve provided,” Haley said. “Every data point shows that the suits are fast and they are capable of medal winning speeds,” he said of the new Mach 39 suit.
Haley said the new suits received “overwhelmingly positive” feedback during testing and after they were delivered in January. The complaints about the back vent only surfaced last week, he said.