Culture

Debunked: U.S. Speedskating's 'Suit-gate'

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The U.S.A. (the well-established, dominant power in speedskating) has had an abysmal performance at the Olympics this year.  Big names like Shani Davis and Heather Richardson haven’t held fists full of medals as predicted. So far, they haven’t even been close. A piece in The New York Times (as well as several other news sources) are reporting that the equipment was possibly to blame.  The victim?  The U.S. speedskating team’s racing suits.  (Of course, it must be the equipment’s fault…)

SUIT-GATE.

At the games, the U.S. team debuted state-of-the-art skin suits made by Under Armour and Lockheed Martin.  The suit was called the Mach 39 and was crafted in a wind tunnel.  It was cutting edge.

Athletes and coaches decided not to unveil the suits prior to the Olympics because they didn’t want anyone to steal the technology. Ah, ze secret veapon!

Plan foiled.

Suits worn but no medals.

It is whispered that the suits must have been defective…

Nope. Stop blaming the suits–and here’s why…

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Mistake #1: None of the team trained in the suits prior to Sochi.

Mistake #2: The team trained at tracks that were at higher altitudes than the tracks at Sochi–so they weren’t as familiar with the conditions that would be present in competition. (Altitude makes the ice harder and faster).

Mistake #3: At the games, when our skaters started to lose, panicked teammates began switching into their old, pre-Olympic race suits. Others had seamstresses make adjustments to the Under Armour suits in a desperate attempt to make them faster.  The team lost its mental edge, confidence, and focus by obsessing over the suits.

Mistake #4:  Too much value was placed on technology and not enough on human ability.  We put too much faith in the “superman suits.” Yes, equipment is important and it can give an athlete an edge, but, in the end, it comes down to the actual athlete under the clothes!  If he or she doesn’t train intelligently and strategically, even the most magical racing suit won’t have an impact.

We shouldn’t solely blame the equipment. Obviously, our team’s struggle at Sochi is based on several factors–many of which we should know better than to commit (and several skaters and coaches admit this). The U.S. team is a great group of seasoned Olympic medalists, but everyone (and every team) makes mistakes. Our team is paying for theirs in the medal count.

We need to remember that humans are flawed, stop blaming the gear, and let it all go.