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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Speed Skating: slow times due to suit?

    http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/...81002780722432

    The 1000m speed skating event seems similar to a kilo on the track (similar times, right around a minute duration), probably with similar pacing strategies as well. The article says the suits might be the issue for USA's bad placings. Thoughts? I get it that the entire USA speed skating team seems to be doing poorly, but I have a hard time believing the suit can be responsible for being a full second off of placing. On the other hand, this is the wall street journal, i.e. fat guys in suits, so I'm not sure if the authors have the right takeaway from the information they were given.

    My initial thought was Mr. Davis blew up a bit after a personal best starting lap. I've experienced this with kilos. The monkey jumps on early and no amount of willpower keeps your speed up. But if the clothing can make that much of a difference... I might have to rethink my kilo setup a bit.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    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, these people said. One skater said team members felt they were fighting the suit to maintain correct form.
    Several skaters, including Heather Richardson, ranked No. 1 in the 1,000 meters, sent their suits to an Under Armour seamstress Thursday to have the panel modified with an extra piece of rubber. After the alteration, Ms. Richardson finished seventh—more than a second slower than the winner.
    Bert van der Tuuk, the designer of the Dutch Olympic team's suits, said Thursday he had tried a similar ventilation panel on the back of a prototype three years ago, but it slowed his skaters by letting in air and creating drag. "The suit was blowing itself up," he said.
    It sounds like they really didn't test them very well.

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    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Here is the vent in question...



    I can totally see air getting in there when a racer is in a deep tuck like this:


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    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    With the back muscles bulging out and leaving a trough in the middle between them, the bottom of the air vent section becomes a big air scoop:


  5. #5
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    My initial thought was Mr. Davis blew up a bit after a personal best starting lap. I've experienced this with kilos. The monkey jumps on early and no amount of willpower keeps your speed up. But if the clothing can make that much of a difference... I might have to rethink my kilo setup a bit.
    It stands to reason that the PB opening lap was expected based on the planned peak. The body isn't in that deep tuck until the end of the first lap.

    Look at the 2:40" mark here. Notice that Davis' head doesn't dip below his back till the start of the second lap when he settles into a smoother motion and deeper tuck, hence this paragraph from the article:

    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, these people said. One skater said team members felt they were fighting the suit to maintain correct form.


    You'll also notice that other skaters simply don't tuck as deep as Davis.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Yea, that vent doesn't look well thought out. But a full second? Seems like a lot. Did the suit visibly billow out? Aerodynamically, if there is no exit for the air, a small scoop just turns into a solid with a near quiescent lump of air holding the inflation.
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 02-14-14 at 02:08 PM.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  7. #7
    Morton Nagrom_'s Avatar
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    Striking similarities between speed skating and track racing.

    I bet the athletes could crossover amazingly well.
    Carleton, you're full of tidbits like that, know of any track racing speed skaters? or vice versa?
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    aka mattio queerpunk's Avatar
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    I've known two amateurs who've crossed over and been pretty dern fast. And there was an article about the Dutch speed skaters, training a lot on bikes.

    There's also Eric Heiden, of course, but he wasn't a trackie.
    the hipster myth.

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  9. #9
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    Yea, that vent doesn't look well thought out. But a full second? Seems like a lot. Did the suit visibly billow out? Aerodynamically, if there is no exit for the air, a small scoop just turns into a solid with a near quiescent lump of air holding the inflation.
    Well, the difference was big enough for the athletes to feel something dragging them and therefore they changed their position in the middle of the efforts.

    I used to have an issue where whenever I climbed hills out of the saddle on my (at the time) new road bike it would suddenly feel sluggish every pedal stroke. It was subtle, but I was sure of it..sort of. I couldn't figure it out till I casually mentioned it to a mechanic who told me that the spoke count was too low on my rear wheel for my weight that it was probably flexing into the brake pad as I pressed hard on the pedals. Sure enough, I tried to climb with the brakes opened up as a test and I didn't feel that small drag. I bought a new, stronger rear wheel and never felt it again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Nagrom_ View Post
    Striking similarities between speed skating and track racing.

    I bet the athletes could crossover amazingly well.
    Carleton, you're full of tidbits like that, know of any track racing speed skaters? or vice versa?
    Well...Giddeon Massie and Apolo Ohno are best buds.

    I know of some juniors that made the switch. Chloe Chepigin (races at TTown and went to Jr Worlds) comes to mind.

    Heather Moyse of Canada competes in Bobsleding, Rugby, and Track Cycling at an international level. Then there is Clara Hughes. She's a multi-sport Olympic medalist, world class speed skater, road cyclist and track cyclist, too.

    I would imagine that a few others on the Canadian national team have a background in speed skating. But, I'm not that familiar with their stories.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Impreza_aL's Avatar
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    our local boy hero daniel holloway.

    last year he was able to win cat's hill and berkeley road race (these are races catered to climbers) back to back. i'm positive he can lay down mean f200.



    Last edited by Impreza_aL; 02-14-14 at 03:19 PM.
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    As a former speed skater (a very long time ago), and a physics guy, one thing to consider is that the airflow coming off the head of the skater might be getting interfered with by the mesh, causing turbulence over the that portion of the back. I would have thought that the mesh would be in the laminar flow layer coming over the back, but the position of the skaters head relative to the back may change that. As for the 1 second difference, any change in the air flow over the back can also change the attitude of the back to the direction of movement, besides causing drag. This can put more stress on the back muscles. As a former skater, I can tell you that it is the back muscles that go first, causing you to skate more upright, which causes more drag etc. The legs are usually the last to go, unlike on the bike, where the legs go first. That deep tuck Shani uses is really hard to maintain. Try it for one minute. Then try it while you are skating (put on some socks and find a wood floor and slide side to side; really, that's how we used to practice off the ice). It doesn't take much to be off to result in 1 second slower time in a 65 second race. All that being said, my question to Under Armour is "didn't you test this in a wind tunnel?" If not, why not?

  12. #12
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    Yea, that vent doesn't look well thought out. But a full second? Seems like a lot. Did the suit visibly billow out? Aerodynamically, if there is no exit for the air, a small scoop just turns into a solid with a near quiescent lump of air holding the inflation.
    At 30 MPH I've seen different suits produce a 10w differential. If the vents in question are catching air, it's not quiescent because the position of the skater to the relative wind isn't constant. The billowing is going to create a whole sequence of air flow events, none of them good.

    If you use the 10w as a benchmark and pencil it out, you're handing over 2-3%. That ballparks in around a second or more for the skaters.

    The vent makes some sense from a heat removal basis on longer events, though you're on ice so I would think the heat buildup/power degradation would be pretty small, especially in a 1000m event. As far as testing...who knows? UA doesn't exactly have a long and storied history involving sports where aerodynamics are crucial. They could well have approached with a completely different mindset...more of a compression garment/performance thought process.

    There were some really stupid hoods on some of the suits I saw...

    And on the skater/cyclist crossover: let's not forget Connie Carpenter went to the Olympics as a speed skater at 14.
    Last edited by Racer Ex; 02-14-14 at 11:24 PM.

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    I'm sure most people are aware by now, changing suits made no difference, so does this come under the "it's a poor carpenter that blames his tools"? I'm not trying to start a war, just wondering what else would cause a significant change in finishing times for an entire team, with many of them having been considered "sure things"? Were training regimens changed, diet, sleep patterns, etc?

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    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdat12 View Post
    I'm sure most people are aware by now, changing suits made no difference...
    Wow. Actually, I guess that's good for the athletes to know that they weren't being handicapped by the suits before.

    It's vindicating for Under Armor, too.
    Last edited by carleton; 02-16-14 at 01:32 PM.

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    Senior Member Velocirapture's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cdat12 View Post
    I'm sure most people are aware by now, changing suits made no difference,
    Sooo... i'm just wondering where you found those research results? Not to start any wars either, but from what read (and granted, its mostly been web info, and not peer-reviewed jourrnal articles), clothing (i.e suites) makes a most significant difference.

    Posts links, please, sounds fascinating

  16. #16
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velocirapture View Post
    Sooo... i'm just wondering where you found those research results? Not to start any wars either, but from what read (and granted, its mostly been web info, and not peer-reviewed jourrnal articles), clothing (i.e suites) makes a most significant difference.

    Posts links, please, sounds fascinating
    I believe that it was said (or inferred) that the new Olympic suits (with the vent hole on the back) actually made them slower. I think cdat meant that changing from the Olympic suit back to the suits they wore before the Olympics made no significant difference in their times.

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    U.S. national long-track team coach Ryan Shimabukuro declined to discuss the suits or Under Armour. "I'm not going to criticize them, even if I was allowed to,"
    Translation: The US team is not allowed to say anything critical about UnderArmour

    Kevin Haley, the senior vice president of innovation for Under Armour, [...] "we'll move heaven and earth to make them better."
    Translation: We never tested real world conditions. We f'd up.

    Bert van der Tuuk, the designer of the Dutch Olympic team's suits, said Thursday he had tried a similar ventilation panel on the back of a prototype three years ago, but it slowed his skaters by letting in air and creating drag. "The suit was blowing itself up," he said.
    Translation: Team USA boffed it. We knew we had the advantage coming into the Games

    a Dutch coach shouted, "Are you talking about the suits? They're slower!"
    Translation: You blew it. We already tried that and it sucks! Yeah for us!



    It's clear to see, even in the promo photo that carleton posted. The vent does NOT sit flush to the body! Those gaps are huge as the skater moves his arms and twists his torso.
    Look at TIME TRIAL skinsuits in cycling and where the vents are (if any). UnderArmour completely messed up the aerodynamic properties and put a parachute on the US skaters.

    How much of a deficit? Who knows....

    The difference between silver and gold in the 1500m was 3 THOUSANDTHS of a second.
    My guess is a parachute will slow you down at least in the tenths or more.
    Last edited by cruiserhead; 02-16-14 at 03:35 PM.

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    "Dutch Coach Jillert Anema dismissed the idea that a racing suit could be entirely responsible for the United States' slow times. But he agreed with Davis that if there were a problem, it should have been addressed ahead of arriving in Sochi.
    "Skating is a feeling and you cannot allow yourself to have your feelings go down," Anema said. "There is no one thing in skating. In skating, there is belief, there is feeling. It's like a religion."
    http://www.latimes.com/sports/olympi...#ixzz2tYXYxLo1

    I am not an engineer, nor am I a speed skater or aero expert, but I've been involved in athletics of some type my entire life. One thing I learned early on, if you don't believe you can win, you rarely will. I was also taught by every coach I ever had in every sport, take ownership of your wins and losses, you don't blame the weather, you don't blame your shoes, you don't blame your equipment.
    They lost with the new suits, they lost with the old suits, ergo it's not the suits, I get beat by people with expensive, super aero bikes, I get beat by folks with old beaters, it's not the type of bike I own, it's not the helmet, my competition was better than me, next time I need to train harder, suffer more.

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    Dutch mentally had an advantage and you can ask LeMond if the gear can make a difference
    they won with the old suits and lost with the new. Of course that's just one factor, not training on slow ice was another, not testing the suits in the leadup was another but yes those suits are a big mistake

  20. #20
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NYTimes
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/18/sp...pw&rref=sports

    ...
    Some blame the new skin suits the Americans wore specifically for these Games. They were called the world’s fastest skin suits, the “Mach 39,” and the United States coaches decided the athletes should wait until the Olympics to compete in them, so other teams would not have an opportunity to copy the technology.

    The suits, made by Under Armour, were manufactured in conjunction with the aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. They were tested in wind tunnels, fine-tuned and supposedly perfected. And the athletes evidently loved them, until they started to perform poorly.

    Late last week, the team switched back to the Under Armour suits they had worn during the World Cup season, but the performances did not improve. ...
    Evidently, the suits were sprung on the athletes just before the Olympics, the athletes initially liked them (until they saw their results), the suits were wind tunnel tested, and they didn't perform any better with their old suits when they switched back. Other guesses are 1) the decision to train at altitude meant the skaters were training on harder, faster ice than you get at sea level, or 2) the Dutch are simply faster this year as they are also beating other former powerhouse teams.

    I think the suits are the scapegoat. Something is off about the team's preparation as a whole.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member himespau's Avatar
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    If the suits were wind tunnel tested, but the athletes didn't see them before last week, I wonder who was testing them and if they used the same deep tuck as the athletes did.

    Dunno, maybe it's all mental though(when I ran track in high school I was always the second-fastest sprinter on my team until the middle of one race when I suddenly realized that instead of just running the race I needed to run for us to win the meet and being happy to be sitting comfortably in third, I still had a lot left and kicked everyone's ass down the home stretch - the supposedly faster guy, the coach's son, never raced in the same race as me again, so I don't know if my new mindset would have allowed me to keep beating him).
    Punctuation is important. It's the difference between "I helped my uncle, Jack, off a horse" and "I helped my uncle Jack off a horse"


  22. #22
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by himespau View Post
    If the suits were wind tunnel tested, but the athletes didn't see them before last week, I wonder who was testing them and if they used the same deep tuck as the athletes did.

    Dunno, maybe it's all mental though(when I ran track in high school I was always the second-fastest sprinter on my team until the middle of one race when I suddenly realized that instead of just running the race I needed to run for us to win the meet and being happy to be sitting comfortably in third, I still had a lot left and kicked everyone's ass down the home stretch - the supposedly faster guy, the coach's son, never raced in the same race as me again, so I don't know if my new mindset would have allowed me to keep beating him).
    They were training in them since mid January. They didn't compete in them prior to the Olympics. I'm not going to say they are wind tunnel savants (I have no way of knowing), but I doubt even a half-assed testing program will overlook something so obvious as body position.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  23. #23
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    With the caveat that the media blows everything out of proportion, it appears that the suits were just one out of a number of things indicating that the team wasn't mentally prepared for the competition.

    Wind tunnelled tested or not, the suits were kept under wraps until the Olympics. They weren't tested in a race, they didn't train with them. It seems to me that an Olympic race is the wrong time for experiments and unknowns.

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    In gathering anecdotal information from my friends in the SS world, it seems there is way more than just the suits that made the problems. Apparently, there was a split between the coaches regarding the high-altitude training camp just before the Olympics; some wanted it, others wanted to avoid it like the plague. The thing to keep in mind is that Davis, Richardson and others were smoking the rest of the world at the World Cups. They didn't just tank at the Olympics, they crashed and burned! The Dutch coach got it right, speed skating is a feeling, and something screwed up the feeling for our skaters. The Dutch are a pretty much happy family that trains together much of the time; they feed off each other's energy. Our skaters tend to train solo, and once the feeling of gloom set in with unexpected results, it looks like it just spiraled down hill with little obstruction by the coaches or other skaters. Who knows what the real reasons are, but I really hope the team bounces back for next time. BTW, US Speedskating (or whatever it is called these days) is kind of like USA Cycling in being a pretty much screwed up organization. If it turns out that the results were due to screw ups by coaches and team management, it won't be the first time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    With the caveat that the media blows everything out of proportion, it appears that the suits were just one out of a number of things indicating that the team wasn't mentally prepared for the competition.

    Wind tunnelled tested or not, the suits were kept under wraps until the Olympics. They weren't tested in a race, they didn't train with them. It seems to me that an Olympic race is the wrong time for experiments and unknowns.

    I think the media is just reporting on this one. There is no overblown hype because the US Team is back to their old suits.
    They ditched the "mach39" suits

    When the Dutch know they have faster suits, it's an advantage that snowballs. It's not just physical.
    When the Dutch look at the suits and tell the US, "We tried that, it's a air scoop."
    Mentally, that's tough not to have in your head.

    For all the hype UnderArmour had made about the suits, they are fairly ill fitting
    and just like many military projects, fail without real world testing.
    over 300 hours of wind-tunnel testing on reinforced fiberglass mannequins with hundreds of different skins setups and textile configurations
    http://regressing.deadspin.com/is-a-...spe-1522523272

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