Shani Davis entered the 2014 Olympics as the back-to-back gold medalist in the 1,500 meters and the current world record holder. He finished a disappointing eighth in Sochi.
Davis's Olympic failure, coupled with poor performances from other American skaters such as Heather Richardson, herself a world record holder, has put attention on the U.S. speedskating team's new Under Armour suits. Reporters have been asking athletes and coaches whether the new Mach 39 suits, which were unveiled last month to great fanfare and weren't worn in any pre-Olympic competition, are the reason for the skating disappointment.
Davis wouldn't take the bait. He told The Wall Street Journal:
"I would like to think that it's not the suit. 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."
U.S. coach Ryan Shimabukuro was more circumspect with his statement. He told reporters:
"I'm not going to comment on that. We have to race in the suits."
Peter Mueller, a former gold-medal winner in speedskating and a man who coached Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen, cheekily told The Wall Street Journal that Davis should wear his old Nike suit and put an Under Armour logo on top of it.
The WSJ also said the concern is a specific element on the suit, according to sources:
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.
Whether the poor results are due to the suit, the perception of the suit or something else entirely, it seems that the new technology will be the scapegoat. The Chicago Tribune reported U.S. officials were scrambling to get old Under Armour suits delivered to Sochi in time for the rest of the competition.