2014 Winter Olympics logo2014 Winter Olympics

Under Armour Will Reportedly Sign Contract Extension with USA Speedskating

United States' Patrick Meek, left, and Shani Davis chat during a speedskating training session at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2014

Despite the United States speedskating team reverting to its old uniforms after a report showed the new suits designed by Under Armour—purported to be the fastest in the world—were slowing down the Americans, the team has renewed its partnership with Under Armour for the next eight years.

From The Wall Street Journal on Twitter:

The United States speedskating team really struggled in these Games, and doubts began to creep in that it was an issue with the new Mach 39 suit that was causing the problems, forcing many American speedskaters to revert back to an older Under Armour suit.

Under Armour defended the new design but relented when the team voted to make the switch. Matt Townsend and Rob Gloster of Bloomberg.com wrote more on the switch last week:

The team voted to revert to the suit worn during the Olympic trials and World Championships from the Mach 39, which the Baltimore-based apparel maker had described as the fastest suit in the world.

The switch came after a report that the new uniforms were slowing American speedskaters at the Olympics.

“It’s more important to support the athletes and their ability to step on the ice confident that they are in a position to win a medal,” Kevin Haley, Under Armour’s senior vice president for innovation, said in an interview [on February 14]. “We want them to be in the best position to win.”

The issue was reportedly with the suits’ rear ventilation panels, though no issues were ever uncovered in testing, which included monitoring their performance in wind tunnels. Still, that the U.S. athletes displayed such a lack of confidence in the suit made the switch important if for no other reason than to ease their minds. 

Even after the switch, however, the U.S. speedskaters continued to struggle, and no American has medaled in either a long- or short-track event, leading many to believe "Uniformgate" was perhaps a bit overblown.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Compare that to the Vancouver Games, when the United States won a combined 10 medals in short- and long-track speedskating, including Shani Davis earning gold in the 1,000-meter and silver in the 1,500-meter race, duplicating his results from the 2006 Games.

At these Olympics, however, his best individual result was eighth in the 1,000-meter race.

Certainly, Under Armour will take a long, hard look at the Mach 39 design, and four years from now there should be no issues (or perceived issues). The American speedskaters were a major disappointment in Sochi, but after these Games, you can bet Under Armour will ensure the suits for 2018 won't cause any controversy.

If nothing else, Under Armour and the United States speedskating team may try to direct attention away from the suits before the Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

 

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