The U.S. speedskating team will abandon their newly designed, controversial Under Armour suits and revert to older ones following a series of poor results at the Olympics, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
The move reportedly comes after several athletes placed blame on the suits for hindering their performance.
In this Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 file photo, Tucker Fredricks of the United States competes in the first heat of the men's 500-meter speedskating race at Adler Arena in Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Winter Olympics. After a strong season on the World Cup circuit, the U.S. speedskating team has had a miserable performance the first week of the Sochi Olympics — and much of the speculation has turned to its new high-tech Under Armour skinsuit developed with help from aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
Under Armour, which has now promised to "move heaven and Earth to make them better," had designed the suits in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and bragged about them being "the fastest speedskating suit in the world."
[sharequote align="center"]"...move heaven and Earth to make them better."[/sharequote]
But, according to the Wall Street Journal, the suits have faced criticism, particularly for a vent on the back. The vent, intended to let heat escape, may have been letting air in, compromising the performances of athletes.
U.S. Speedskating executive director Ted Morris said Friday that the team members were locked in a debate over which suit to wear going forward. He said the team's members were split evenly and no final decision had been reached. "The general feeling from the athletes, it's pretty darn close to 50-50," Morris said at the time.
Haley said the team ultimately decided to change the suits largely at the insistence of a minority of skaters on the team who are considered medal contenders.
The uniform swap puts Under Armour in a tough spot. If the U.S. team wins medals in the old suits, "it will be embarrassing for Under Armour," said Matt Powell, an industry analyst for SportsOneSource. Baltimore-based Under Armour Inc. is primarily known for its performance apparel. Shares of the company closed at $106 late Friday, down 2.38%.
Haley, the Under Armour executive, contested the notion that changing to the previous suits would harm the company's reputation. "They're all Under Armour suits," he said. "We just want the skaters to win."
Nevertheless, the results for the team at the Sochi Olympics have been disappointing.
"Coming off one of the stronger fall seasons, of course we were expecting to take home a bunch of medals, lots of hardware," Kip Carpenter, a coach with the U.S. team, told the Wall Street Journal.
(H/T: The Verge)
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