Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Suspicions about Under Armour's speedskating uniform "infected the team like a virus"

NYT:

U.S. Speedskating has embraced this and other outside-the-box ideas in a bid to return to glory after a disastrous showing at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Perhaps just as notable has been the fact that many of these new ideas, including the tai chi sessions, have come directly from the apparel giant Under Armour, whose speedskating suit famously became a scapegoat for the American team’s shortcomings four years ago.

Rather than receding after that public relations catastrophe, Under Armour became determined to take a more hands-on approach in the team’s development. The company accounts for about 20 percent of the organization’s $1.2 million in sponsorship revenue — roughly on par with the federation’s other top sponsor, Toyota — but in this cycle Under Armour is providing resources and expertise in addition to money.

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The hubbub over the suits began midway through the 2014 Games. The American speedskaters were scuffling and would ultimately fail to win a single medal. Soon questions arose about, and fingers were pointed at, Under Armour’s so-called Mach 39 suit, which had been developed with the help of Lockheed Martin and released with much fanfare. Some members of the American team came to believe that a set of vents on the back of the suit was letting in air — creating drag that was slowing them down.

Ted Morris, the executive director of U.S. Speedskating, said that a coach from another country planted the idea in one of the American skaters’ heads, and from there it infected the team like a virus.