In the wake of disappointing results from the U.S. speed skating team at the Sochi Olympics — no U.S. skater finished higher than 7th place — skaters, coaches and experts associated with the sport are looking for answers. Some quickly rushed to blame the untested, high-tech suits, designed specifically for the team by Under Armour. The Washington Post reported:
Had the Americans trained hard enough? Had they overlooked something the medal-gorging Dutch had figured out? And what about the Mach 39, devised in collaboration with aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, no less? What had happened to the propulsive blast it promised to deliver?
Reporters wanted to know. And some U.S. speedskaters started having doubts.
Delivered by Under Armour to the team on Jan. 1, as contracted, the Mach 39 had never been worn in competition before the Sochi Games. So how could the U.S. skaters know for sure that the air vents down the spine translated to speed? Where was the experiential proof that the relocated zippers and high-tech fibers helped their performance more than hurt it?
“The reasoning behind that was we wanted to keep the suit a secret in case other people found out about it, and they had enough time to switch their technology,” explained U.S. speedskater Brian Hansen, 23, of Evanston, Ill., asked why the athletes hadn’t competed in the suit before Sochi, given prototypes to train in instead.
The team hastily voted to switch back to the Under Armour suits they had worn in the World Cup races, with no better results. Sensing a potential rift with a major sponsor and a lot of money at stake, the U.S. skaters quickly began to shift the focus away from the suits and the U.S. Olympic Committee jumped to extend its contract with Under Armour through the 2022 Games.
Now that all the Olympic excitement is winding down, it’s worth thinking about the extent to which our children, under the new Common Core Standards, have become lab rats in an experiment much bigger than the one the U.S. speed skating team participated in during the Sochi Olympics.