Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sport For Thought: Is Under Armour to Blame for the US Speed Skating Debacle?

The major story at the conclusion of the 2014 Sochi Olympics were no longer about the hotels being unfinished, or spying in showers, or even only four out of the five Olympic rings lighting up during the opening ceremonies. Instead, the topic of discussion was the United State's lack of medals in speed skating, which was a promising event heading into the start of the Games.
The US changed their equipment provider from Nike to Under Armour and these new speed skating suits were touted to be the fasted in the history of the sport. Their was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the newly designed suits and the athletes seemed to love the switch. With all of the hype also comes the pressure for the US to produce and win medals, not be on the verge of a shut-out.

The US wound up winning just one lone medal in the Men's Team 5,000 meter relay. The combination of Chris Creveling, Jordan Malone, J.R. Celski, and Eduardo Alvarez, as well as the crash between the Netherlands and China at the start of the race, was enough to garner a silver medal in the last opportunity of the speed skating events. Although they were able to capture one medal, the overall outcome in speed skating was a disappointment.

It is almost unacceptable for the US to be dominated on the ice, and speculation immediately surrounded the 'revolutionary' speed skating suits. After all of the hype, rumors were swirling the athletes were blaming the Under Armour suits for their lack of success throughout the Games. The turning point that made many wonder if these rumors were true, is when Shani Davis, who was expected to make history by winning a third straight gold medals in the 1,000 meter, faltered and was blown away by his competition, finishing in eighth place.

Under Armour is one of the most revolutionary performance enhancing apparel's on the market, and it is a major shock that this would be the reason for the US's lack of success on the ice. Especially, when just a few weeks earlier, the athletes were raving about their new gear. Many are speculating that air vents on the back of the suit designed to allow body heat escape, instead were slowing the skaters down.

Under Armour has received a tremendous amount of backlash due to the blame of the athletes poor performance on the company. It is still unknown how the poor performance of the United States Speed Skaters will effect Under Armour and their stock, but the innovative company is standing by their word that the suit did not slow the skaters down. It also seems these rumors have not tarnished the relationship between Under Armour and US Speed Skating, due to their newly signed eight year contract. This deal means Under Armour will supply the suits for the 2018 Winter Olympics on South Korea as well and an undetermined location in 2022.

One explanation could be the difference in altitude from where the team practices to the actual altitude in Sochi, which is at sea level. Or maybe the US athletes were just out performed and did not earn their place on the podium. Unfortunately, we will most likely never know how this debacle happened, but I am sure that US will work hard and be ready to land back on the podium in four years.

Alexa Fontanella is a freshman Sport Management Major at Drexel University, from Totowa, NJ. This winter she will be working with Drexel Athletics on marketing strategies and game day operations for the Drexel Dragons basketball team. Alexa is looking forward to participating in her first co-op next fall and is excited for such an amazing opportunity. She is a huge New York Sports fan, specifically the Yankees and the Nets. Follow Alexa on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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