Under Armour inks new U.S. Speedskating deal through ’22

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U.S. Speedskating will only take home one medal from the Sochi Olympics, but the group did receive some good news before J.R. Celski, Chris Creveling, Jordan Malone and Eddy Alvarez broke through for silver in the men’s 5000m short track relay.

Despite enduring criticism of the team’s “Mach 39” suits – suits that were eventually replaced with older models – Under Armour has confirmed a new eight-year partnership with U.S. Speedskating that will run through 2022.

In television comments, Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank vowed that both his company and the team will move forward from their problems in Sochi.

“Look, we got beat up a little bit last week and speed skating is obviously getting beaten up,” he said on TV according to Reuters. “So what we don’t do is we don’t retreat. We dust ourselves up and we come back bigger, better and stronger than we ever were before.

“America will be OK, speed skating will be OK. And Under Armour will be OK also.”

MORE: Watch full-event replays from Day 14 of the Sochi Olympics

Going into Sochi, the “Mach 39” suits were billed as the world’s fastest. But the Americans never competed with the new suits before the Olympics.

When the speedskating competition began, Team USA faltered while their rivals from the Netherlands proceeded to begin a dominating run that has seen them earn 21 long-track medals in these Games.

Eventually, U.S. Speedskating received permission to drop the “Mach 39” suits in favor of an alternate suit that was also produced by Under Armour. But the switch didn’t help either, and the U.S. skaters were unable to secure an individual medal.

The shocking performance caused one of those skaters, Maria Lamb, to directly criticize U.S. Speedskating; she called the suit problem the “tip of the iceberg.”

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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