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Speedskater Shani Davis of the U.S. trains at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014.
Four U.S. speed skaters made it to the medal podium in Vancouver, seven in Turin and eight in Salt Lake City. With half of the Sochi speed skating competition already over, not one American has made it past seventh place. What gives?
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, it could be the skaters' suits.
People familiar with the U.S. skating team told the Journal that the team's skating suits, designed by Under Armour, could be slowing them down on the track.
"Vents on back of the suit, designed to allow heat to escape, are also allowing air to enter and create drag that keeps skaters from staying in the low position they need to achieve maximum speed," the Journal reported. "One skater said team members felt they were fighting the suit to maintain correct form."
A representative from Team USA rejected such speculation, as did the senior vice president of innovation from Under Armour, who told the Journal that he knew the suits were fast and would "move heaven and Earth" to improve them.
Shani Davis, a four-time Olympic medalist, who has yet to add to his haul in Sochi, told the Journal that he doesn't want to blame the suit for his poor performances so far. (He placed 24th in the men's 500m and 8th in the 1000m -- an event he won gold medals for at the Turin and Vancouver Games). "I'd much rather blame myself. I just wasn't able to do it today, but other people were."
Davis' 8th place finish in the 1000m race was a surprise to even him. He called it "unfortunate" and said he would study the video of his loss to "see what these guys were doing that I wasn't doing."
He started slower than Dutch champion Stean Groothuis, lost more than half a second in the first lap and continued to lose speed throughout the remainder of the race.
Davis has another shot to improve his score and dispel (or increase) speculation about the suits when he competes in the 1500m race on Saturday. He has won two silver medals in the event and arrived in Sochi as one of the favorites for this race.
Five other speed skating medal events are on the agenda for the remainder of the Sochi Games.