SOCHI -- US Speedskating's executive director Ted Morris took the blame for the team's dismal showing this past week. "We know the athletes have talent and should have success," he told USA TODAY Sports on Saturday. "This is on U.S. Speedskating."
As for the failings of expected medalist Shani Davis and others, Morris said, "I think that, to be quite honest, we're all a bit stunned. We are doing everything in our power to turn that around."
That includes going back to the old suit the long track skaters used during the World Cup season. IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Saturday morning the suit change is going through the normal process of approval, but he is still waiting for confirmation.
U.S. Speedskating's long track coach Matthew Kooreman called the suit change "just a mind game." "It's mental now; we have something that we've eliminated maybe one small piece of doubt that people had. Now mentally I think people are focused and they know it's on them to perform.
"I think people now have something to kind of lock onto and say, 'Ok, this is a change.' Now it's up to us to perform. There's no excuses anymore."
U.S. speedskater Patrick Meek, who worked closely with Under Armour and Lockheed Martin during the suit development process, doesn't blame the suits for the shutout of medals, adding that athletes were given three suit options that would stand up against the best in the world.
"The fact of the matter is right now we're zero of 18 in medals and we're at halftime in these Olympics," Meek said Saturday. "It's fun to look at the skin suit right now because it's on us, you know. It's the easy thing to point to. But if you think that's the only equipment change we've made over the last 72 hours, you're crazy.
"We have to do something different. We have to be better for the American people. We were sent here to win medals and we haven't done that yet. Now it's time to change things up a little bit and get back to our winning ways."
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Davis declined to speak with reporters after a training session Saturday morning, saying he'd answer questions after the conclusion of his 1,500-meter race later in the day.
Morris said the suit issue came up in the middle of last week, but that heading into the Games, the data was reviewed and the organization was pleased with the results. He said Davis tested the suits and also "felt good about them."
The change back to the old suits was not a unanimous decision. Kooreman said that most skaters agreed that a change was necessary. "People are hopeful for a change," he said.
Speedskating coaches and officials met with each skater individually first, to discuss past results and go over future plans and tactics, before the entire team met as a group Friday night. The goal was to be as transparent as possible with the athletes about what the options are, Kooreman said.
Kooreman said the question of whether a suit could mean the difference between gold and an eighth-place finish depends on the event. In the women's 1,000 meters, for example, no suit could have moved American skaters ahead of China's Hong Zhang, who ran away with the gold.
"It's more about trying to make a change where we can feel good about performances today," Kooreman said. "I don't know if there's necessarily any kind of hard evidence that said we had to, but just trying to change the mood a little bit. We know we have good suits from Under Armour that we've set world records in before. Just something to spark a little bit of change of the vibe."
One American coach, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, blamed the team's preparation strategy, saying the team was hyper-focused on the Under Armour cutting-edge technology program and failed to prepare for the conditions in Sochi. The team trained in Salt Lake City on fast ice - the complete opposite of the conditions in Sochi, which is below sea level on slow ice in humidity.
Morris said that issue will be reviewed after the Olympics. "That's something we'll talk about," he said. "That's been deferred post Sochi because there's nothing we can do about that now."
That said, Morris added that the team had success in Vancouver, which also had soft ice.
The Dutch speedskating team has won 12 medals through six events, one shy of the single-Games record. Each summer, the Dutch skating team unites for two camps lasting as long as two weeks apiece. One near-constant is that the Dutch train at lower altitudes, not the higher altitudes used by American skaters in Salt Lake City or Collabo, Italy, where the U.S. team spent 10 days prior to the Sochi Games.
Though Dutch Olympians are using suits new to the Olympics, they began using these suits as early as the first event of the World Cup season. The first skater to try out the new suit was Sven Kramer, the world's top skater in longer distances.
"It looked worse because the Dutch are performing so well, that it really rubbed it in our faces," Kooreman said of the suit issue.
This is an issue involving only long track skaters, and the short trackers are not changing or having any issues, Morris said.
Allison Baver, a two-time Olympian in short track, trained with the national team in both short and long track, but did not make either Olympic team. She said that consistency is the goal. She wrote in an email that even if a new suit was better she would choose to wear the suit she had the most success in, if possible, since it's better to be safe than sorry.
The governing body was in disarray for much of the last year and the former executive director stepped down. U.S. Speedskating hired respected executive Mike Plant as its president and brought Morris on board, a former executive with the U.S. governing bodies for skiing and figure skating.
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