UPDATE: U.S. Speedskating gets permission to change suits

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A disappointing Sochi Olympics thus far has caused U.S. Speedskating to ask Olympic and skating officials for the option of switching out of their new Under Armour suits – and UA’s senior vice president of innovation, Kevin Haley, has told the Associated Press that they’ve indeed received that option.

U.S. Speedskating president Mike Plant has issued the following statement on the matter:

“For the remainder of the Winter Olympic Games, Team USA speedskaters will be wearing the previously-approved Under Armour skin suits used during recent World Cup competition. Under Armour provided US Speedskating with three different suit configurations in advance of Sochi, and we have full confidence in the performance benefits of each of them. We are constantly evaluating all aspects of race preparation and execution to help our athletes improve their output and maximize their physical and psychological advantages. Under Armour’s mission is to make all athletes better, and they are working tirelessly with Team USA to ensure each athlete steps on the ice with 100% confidence so they are positioned to capture a spot on the podium. US Speedskating is proud of its long-term, successful partnership with Under Armour, and we all look forward to the upcoming races.”

Through the first six speedskating events in Sochi, the best result for an American speedskater has been seventh.

The team’s biggest star, Shani Davis, tried his best to keep out of the suit conversation after a training session.

“I’m, uh, honestly being as optimistic as I can possibly be,” said Davis, who finished a surprising eighth in the 1000m, the race he had claimed gold in at Torino in 2006 and Vancouver in 2010.

“I’m just staying focused on the 1500, race. Suit or no suit, I’ve got to go out there and try to win.”

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One day after the men’s 1000m, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe were unable to medal in that distance on the women’s side.

It’s led to a tough environment for the U.S. speedskaters.

“Morale is down right now,” Joey Mantia, a 1500m skater said. “We need to pick that up in the coming races.”

As for their rivals from the Netherlands, who have dominated so far in Sochi, it seems they’re not putting the Americans’ problems down to the suits.

“It could also be that they were just outclassed here,” said men’s 500m winner and 1000m bronze medalist Michel Mulder.

U.S. senators speak up as women’s hockey worlds near with no resolution

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sixteen U.S. senators wrote a letter to USA Hockey’s executive director Monday over their concerns about the treatment of the women’s national team.

Players have threatened to boycott the upcoming world championships over a wage dispute. The senators, all Democrats, urged David Ogrean to resolve the matter and ensure the team receives “equitable resources.” They cited the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.

USA Hockey’s board of directors meets Monday, and players said Sunday night they hope there’s a deal.

The senators, all Democrats, joined a chorus of support that includes unions representing players from the NHL, NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball. Those organizations said over the weekend they stood with the women’s team and criticized USA Hockey for attempting to find replacement players.

Prominent NHL agent Allan Walsh tweeted Sunday, “Word circulating among NHL players that American players will refuse to play in men’s World Championships in solidarity with the women.”

Zach Bogosian, an American-born Buffalo Sabres defenseman, went to high school with U.S. captain Meghan Duggan. He tweeted his support and said he hopes the dispute is resolved.

The U.S. is the defending champion at the International Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which begins Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

In negotiations over the past 15 months, players have asked for a four-year contract that pays them outside the six-month Olympic period. The senators’ letter notes the $6,000 that players earn around the Olympics and USA Hockey’s $3.5 million annual spending on the men’s national team development program and other discrepancies.

“These elite athletes indeed deserve fairness and respect, and we hope you will be a leader on this issue as women continue to push for equality in athletics,” the senators wrote.

In a statement Sunday night, players said they hoped USA Hockey would approve terms discussed during a meeting last week. They said the agreement has the “potential to be a game changer for everyone.”

The letter was signed by: Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Patty Murray of Washington, Dianne Feinstein of California, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Thomas Carper of Delaware, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Robert Menendez and Cory Booker of New Jersey, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

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Ugandan Olympian’s body shuts down at World Cross-Country Champs (video)

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Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei went from leading the race to finishing 30th in the final kilometer at the World Cross-Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda, on Sunday.

Cheptegei, a 20-year-old Olympian, saw his body shut down in the last four minutes of his race.

His stride shortened. His pace slowed. Cheptegei appeared on the verge of falling. At one point, a teammate deliberately pushed him from behind to keep going.

Cheptegei led by 12 seconds going into the final two-kilometer lap. He would finish 1 minute, 44 seconds behind Kenyan winner Geoffrey Kamworor, with 28 other runners separating them after the 10km race that took about a half-hour.

Cheptegei’s body movement looked similar to that of British triathlete Jonny Brownlee, who had to be helped to the finish line by brother Alistair Brownlee at the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Cozumel, Mexico, in September.

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