It's been a disastrous trip to Sochi for Team USA's speedskaters.
This team figured to be a powerhouse entering Sochi and a position of strength for Team USA.
The AP nailed the Netherlands' dominance, but whiffed on the performance of Team USA. That's understandable. The Americans should have performed better.
On the men's side, Shani Davis looked prime to extend his grand Olympic legacy. He was the two-time defending 1,000-meter Olympic gold medalist, and two-time defending silver-medalist in the 1,500-meter. His best finish in the two events was eighth.
On the women's side, Heather Richardson was supposed to be a force. In three events, she didn't finish higher than seventh. She was not alone as an expected medalist, as the Boston Globe pointed out, either:
During this, the suit for Team USA came under fire.
It was an outfit developed by Lockheed Martin that was designed to give the Americans an advantage. Instead, skaters complained the suit was slowing them down. The suits were switched, and the results still suffered.
Davis felt all of the distractions were at least partly to blame for the poor performances. As passed along by Jared S. Hopkins of the Los Angeles Times, Davis offered up these thoughts:
There were just so many things going on, with what's going on with this, what's going on with that, what's got to happen here. I think if we could eliminate all those distractions and I could've just put that energy into performing and skating, it would've been a totally different outcome.
Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg has his own take on the source of disappointment:
Although the cause for the poor performance is up for debate, the fact that it has indeed been poor is not, and there will be no further results to change that perception.
There is just one individual event left. That is the women's 5,000-meter. Maria Lamb is Team USA's lone hope in that event, and she doesn't look to have much of a shot at the podium.
Although, there is the hope that Lamb will vastly overachieve expectations, that would be a tad foolhardy, considering all of her teammates appear to be underachieving.
That leaves only the men's and women's team pursuit on the speedskating Olympics schedule.
The women were never considered to be much of a factor in that event. The men, however, certainly had medal hopes. The Associated Press pegged them for a silver in the event.
Now, perhaps a gold for the men would salvage a bit of this trip for Team USA, but a silver or bronze will do next to nothing to change the perception of the performance.
Besides, the stark reality is that Team USA isn't likely to stand on the podium. The men have been dominated in their individual events. Nothing has been presented for us to think that this group will suddenly flip the switch and land on the podium.
Perhaps this is a wake up call for this proud program, or perhaps it is a sign that other countries have passed them by. Time will tell, but time has already told us that these Olympics will reap nothing but disappointment for the American speedskaters.
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