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article imageLong-track speedskaters have a bit of technology up their sleeves

By Karen Graham     Feb 21, 2018 in Technology
Speed skating is an Olympic event where a thousandth of a second can make the difference between who gets a medal and who doesn't, so athletes rely on technology to give them an edge.
there are only a few companies that dominate the technology that goes into the aerodynamic, second skin that makes up a skaters suit. One is Quebec-based Apogee. Apogee has only been around since 1998, but they have now made a name for themselves, right up there with Under Armour and Nike.
Apogee has designed Speed Skating Canada's suits since the aftermath of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, and as Stéphane Roy, the president of Apogee and suit designer said, "You know, Speed Skating Canada is not content with half measures. It's victory at all costs. Nothing else. Our organization was ready to take on this incomparable challenge."
For the 2018 Winter Olympics, Roy told CTV News, "We have brought into the arms (of the suits) ceramic dots. The width, or diameter, is actually 1.5 millimeters, but it gives a little more upload very much like the wings on a plane."
2015 World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships  mens team pursuit (4). Team Canada Jordan Be...
2015 World Single Distance Speed Skating Championships, mens team pursuit (4). Team Canada Jordan Belchos Ted-Jan Bloemen (in the middle) Denny Morrison 3.44.
"We are actually calculating the air coming on the arms and the legs of the athletes. The goal is to get this air out of the legs and the arms as quickly as possible."
This year's edition of the suit underwent 20 hours of testing in the wind tunnel at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa. "We know how to bring speed into the suit," Roy explained. "When you get faster than 45 kilometers hour, it's becoming really, really important to get the right fabric and the right placement.
The tech secret is the tiny ceramic dots, a blend of rubber, plastic, Kevlar, Dyneema and honeycomb stretch, resulting in a 3-D effect. Each suit costs about $1,200 to make and is custom-fitted to the athlete's body. Speed Skating Canada's long-track high-performance director Cara Thibault said Own The Podium's science and tech arm Innovations For Gold helped pay for the development of the 2018 suit.
"It's awesome to know we're in the fastest most aerodynamic skin suit in the world, but in the design of this year's suit is a big Maple Leaf with a bunch of small Maples Leafs filling different parts of the suit," four-time Olympian Denny Morrison said.
Håvard Bøkko at the World Championships 2007 in Heerenveen.
Håvard Bøkko at the World Championships 2007 in Heerenveen.
Bjarte Hetland
Under Armour's suit is an overhaul of Mach 39
The U.S. speedskaters are relying on Under Armour, who came out with an overhaul to the Mach 39, the controversial uniform that many blamed for the US team's poor performance in Sochi.
This year's suit does not have a vent in the back, which tended to allow too much air to enter the suit, creating a vacuum that allegedly slowed the skaters down. An internal report conducted after the Sochi Olympics says the technology was not to blame, according to Wired.
Chris Yu, director of integrated technologies at Specialized, the company that conducted the hundreds of hours of wind tunnel testing for the new Mach 39s said this year's suit is made of three fabrics - One of them is a white nylon spandex mix called H1, that runs down the suit’s arms and legs in patches, creating an almost "imperceptible roughness" in the surface.
US Speedskating
Yu explains that anything punching a hole in the air will leave a wake or vacuum behind it. Speed skaters need to make that hole as small as possible. This is why suit design concentrates on cylindrical objects, like arms and legs. So anywhere you see the H1 fabric is a trouble spot for wind resistance.
Yu says. "If you add too much you’ll introduce more drag; add too little and you’re not re-energizing the air quite enough."
And the suit overhaul must have helped. The United States won the bronze medal in the women’s pursuit, its first long-track speedskating medal of the Games, outskating Canada for the medal.
However, it's not over yet. The men's and women's team pursuits Wednesday, men's 1,000 meters Friday and men's and women's mass starts Saturday conclude the Olympic speedskating competition.
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