SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - A devastated Shani Davis fears the U.S. speed skating team may not win a medal at the Sochi Winter Games because of the psychological damage caused by a controversy over its racing suits.
The double Olympic champion came only 11th in the men’s 1,500 meters at the Adler Arena on Saturday. Brian Hansen finished seventh, Joey Mantia 22nd and Jonathan Kuck 37th in another shutout for the United States.
The team announced late on Friday it was going to switch outfits after concerns that the Mach 39 suit, marketed as the fastest in the sport’s history, was one reason behind the medal-less performance so far.
The International Olympic Committee permitted the team to switch to an old World Cup suit less than an hour before the 1,500 event, but there was no change in U.S. fortunes.
Davis said it was impossible to say exactly what role the suit switch played, but there was a psychological element to the fiasco.
“I feel like the damage of the suit was already done,” Davis told reporters after the race.
”Just going through it mentally and using energy in ways we haven’t used energy before, and worrying about things we didn’t have to worry about in Olympic trials ...it took its toll.
“I spent energy in ways that I wouldn’t have had to have done normally, and I can only do the best I can. The damage was already done.”
Asked about the mood in the team overall, he replied: ”We have no medals, man, we have none.
”And the way things are looking we might not get any, and it’s sad because we’ve had a lot of potential, a lot of talent, a lot of things going for us and looking good going forward.
“But it’s terrible, terrible, man. Big, big disappointment.”
Davis refused to point the blame at US Speedskating, saying he was disappointed in his own performance.
But he did criticize the decision to use the new suits when they had not been properly tried and tested.
”I think the best thing would have been to have made sure that these suits were what the people said they were so that we can actually know going into the races, instead of finding out on one of the biggest races of our lives.
“I’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and try and figure out what possibly happened these past weeks leading into this that could cause such change in my results.”
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Robert Woodward