Olympics-Speed skating-U.S. "lucky" to be able to switch suits

SOCHI, Russia Sun Feb 16, 2014 4:50am EST

SOCHI, Russia Feb 16 (Reuters) - The United States speed skating team were lucky enough of their athletes brought back-up suits to Sochi so they could ditch their much-maligned Under Armour outfits, coach Michael Kooreman told reporters on Sunday.

The U.S. opted to do away with their 'Mach 39' suits after failing to win a medal in the first six skating events at the Adler Arena.

The switch to an earlier-model Under Armour outfit failed to bring a reverse in fortunes, though, as Brian Hansen ended Saturday's 1,500m in seventh, the best-placed of the four U.S. skaters.

Under Armour provided the team with three different suit configurations before Sochi, but Kooreman said it wasn't regular practice for skaters to bring extra suits to events.

"Most of the athletes just had it here and there were some extra back up ones," he told reporters of the skinsuit they were now using.

"We kind of got lucky that we had enough to be honest."

The decision to change came after individual and team meetings on Friday with the International Olympic Committee only approving the use of the skinsuit, used by the team in the current World Cup campaign, an hour before Saturday's race.

Kooreman had said on Saturday that the decision wasn't unanimous among the 17-skater team and thought the failings of the U.S. were more likely psychological than material.

The 'Mach 39' - billed before the Games as the fastest ever having gone through hours of wind tunnel analysis by aerospace contractors but little testing in competition - was now redundant, Kooreman said.

"Those were really only for this event. I don't think they have ISU (International Skating Union) approval to wear them at World Cups so they are essentially on the shelf.

"We might have another one produced that is similar like that but I don't know what the timeline is on that right now."

With four speed skating events left at the Sochi Games, the women's 1,500m race on Sunday appears to be America's best chance of winning a first medal.

Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe clocked the second and third fastest times of the season over the distance and will wear the World Cup suit for the first time after managing only seventh and eighth wearing the 'Mach 39' in the 1,000m on Thursday.

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