Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema, whose athletes have dominated Sochi’s long track events, told reporters after Saturday morning’s practice that when it comes to current-day speedskating suits, the athletes’ confidence in them was more significant than any nuance in their design.
“When you skate well, the energy comes and you will not get tired,” Anema said. “You need to have a good feeling when you skate. If you have doubts, then you will not skate well. It’s like throwing a dart. If you don’t feel good, you will miss the bull’s-eye.
After a disappointing start to the Sochi Games, in which two-time defending 1000 meter champion Shani Davis finished eighth in hsi signature event and no U.S. speedskater has done better than seventh, U.S. Speedskating president Mike Plant announced that the team would drop its the new Under Armour suits that had been touted as giving them a sizable advantage and revert to the older model Under Armour suit they used in world cup competition.
Under Armour is a Baltimore-based manufacturer of high-performance gear that has aggressively extended its footprint from traditional stick-and-ball sports to Olympics sports, with the 2014 Sochi Games.
Despite the change in suits, U.S. speedskating coach Kip Carpenter said he didn’t expect a dramatic turnaround in the team’s performace. “A skater does not lose a second [in the 1000 meters] because of a skinsuit,” Carpenter said Friday.
Asked about the Americans’ switch in the midst of the competition, Anema said that Dutch skaters had a similar problem with their suits at the 2006 European all-around championships, which wasn’t important. “What was important,” Anema said, “was that the skaters lost confidence in the suits.
Noting that all speedskating suits are typically tested in wind tunnels, Anema suggested that if the U.S. team’s allegedly revolutionary suits were costing athletes any significant time, it would have shown up in testing.
Nonetheless, he said that changing the suits midway through the Winter Games could help the American skaters psychologically.
“It’s not the suit, even if it is not such a good suit. If you do not have confidence, than it can be a mental problem,” Anema said. “You can’t allow your team to have doubts. If three skaters say they do not like the suits, then gather everyone together and change it.”