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February 17, 2014

U.S. speedskaters shut out again at Olympic oval

SOCHI, Russia — The prospect of a medal shutout at the Olympic speedskating oval for the first time since 1984 grew more real for the U.S. on Sunday, as no American women managed to come near the podium in the 1,500 meters.

Heather Richardson had the best showing in Sunday’s race, skating her second-best time at sea level in 1 minute, 57.60 seconds to wind up seventh. Brittany Bowe ended up 14th and Jilleanne Rookard was 18th.

Meanwhile, the Dutch swept the medals in an event for the third time at Adler Arena, giving the skating-crazed nation 16 of 24 long-track speedskating medals so far at the Sochi Games.

As did the men a day earlier, the U.S. women switched back to the skinsuits they wore during the World Cup season, ditching the new Mach 39 suits that were touted as the fastest in the world when the team received them on Jan. 1. Both versions are made by Under Armour.

The Americans didn’t practice or race in the new suits until they arrived in Sochi. Although they first saw the suits after the U.S. trials last month, they didn’t get them back again until the pre-Olympic training camp in Collabo, Italy, after individual tailoring had been completed.

“I think you guys are making more of a deal on the skinsuits than we are,” said U.S. coach Ryan Shimabukro. “The athletes have to go and compete no matter what. The suits that they raced in today, that’s the suit Brittany broke the world record in, that’s the suit that Heather won three out of the four World Cups this year.”

Shani Davis said the skaters “absolutely” should have gotten the new suits before Jan. 1 so they could have tried them out in competition. The four-time Olympic medalist from Chicago finished eighth in the 1,000 and 11th in the 1,500, his two best events.

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