USOC: Under Armour Mach 39 Suits Not to Blame for Weak U.S. Speedskating Performance

Andrew Klips |

The United States currently has 19 medals at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, comprised of 5 gold, 4 silver and 10 bronze medals. This puts the States in a tie with Russia for total medals, one ahead of Norway and two ahead of Netherlands. The U.S. has been particularly dominant in slopestyle and halfpipe events, snagging nearly half of the total U.S. medals in those competitions. 

Notably missing is a medal in speedskating, races that U.S. skaters were favored to win. In the last three Olympics, U.S. speedskaters have won a total of 19 medals. Leading the way this year, the U.S. has Shani Davis, a two-time Olympic champion and winner of three of four World Cup races this season.  The U.S. also has womens’ 1,000-meter world record holder Brittany Bowe and 1,000-meter World Cup leader Heather Richardson. Even with the talent, no medals have been hauled in for speedskating at Sochi. To date, no U.S. skater has finished above fourth in any speedskating event.

Has to be the skin suits the athletes are wearing, right? Under Armour (UA) , the manufacturer of the Mach 39 suits, trumpeted the new uniform as the fastest in speedskating prior to the start of the Olympics, although they had not yet been used in competition.

Now, the Mach 39 suits have been scapegoated by some as the reason for the disappointing performance of skaters in Sochi. One of the problems being cited by pundits was the vents on the back of the suits creating a drag by letting air in, rather that allow heat to escape as intended.

On Friday, some members of the U.S. speedskating team requested to switch to the old racing uniforms, which are also made by Under Armour.

The uniform change didn’t matter much, as the U.S. skaters didn’t make it to the podium in two events following the switch. Shani Davis finished 11th in the men’s 1,500 meter race donning the old garb. Heather Richardson came in 7th in the ladies’ 1,500 meter race in the older attire.  Brittany Bowe finished 14th. Hmmm. Maybe it wasn’t the suit.

The U.S. Olympic Committee stepped up Tuesday morning to say that it is reviewing the lackluster speedskating performance and will “leave no stone unturned” in its analysis. USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said that he does not believe the poor showing was fault of the high-tech Under Armor suits.

Blackmun went on to say that the USOC is grateful to have partners like Under Armour and Lockheed Martin (LMT) , praising the companies for their generosity in supporting innovation in speedskating.

Under Armour also sponsors members of the U.S. hockey team, U.S. bobsled team, U.S. freestyle team, Canadian snowboard team and Canadian hockey team.

Under Armour stock was impacted by the negativity and blame for the inexplicable U.S. speedskating performance, falling from near $110 on February 13 to lows of $103 in early trading on Tuesday.  The stock has rebounded since the USOC standing behind Under Armour, with shares reversing from losses just after the opening bell to now be ahead by nearly 2 percent as the noon-hour approaches.

The stock jumped to all-time highs at the end of January following Under Armour posting a 35-percent increase in net revenue and 28-percent jump in profits in the fourth quarter. Further, UA boosted its 2014 outlook, now expecting up to 23-percent growth in sales and 24-percent growth in operating income, as compared to a strong 2013.

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