Olympic seasons tend to be a little different form regular seasons in speed skating. Suit colors can suddenly become a topic of discussion, especially if a team claims that blue makes you skate faster than red. Is that why Norway changed the color of their kit?
In an Olympic season, more than anytime else, everyone is looking for innovations to get just that one percent edge they need for a medal. Whether the innovations really help, often remains to be proved but that it is part of the psychological battle.
At the first leg of the ISU World Cup Speed Skating 2017 in Heerenveen, the Norwegian skaters showed their new blue suits for the first time at an international competition. As far back as the black and white television era, Norway always used to skate in red suits, so the change of color could be called revolutionary.
Håvard Myklebust, researcher and leader in the "Top Speed Project" at the Norwegian Skating Federation, claimed that the color really helped to skate faster on Norwegian TV channel NRK a few weeks ago:
‘Yes, it may be a bit faster. We had not chosen blue if it had not given us a favorable difference. It fits the speed profile for the air resistance of that fabric," he said.
It certainly did not slow down Håvard Lorentzen (NOR). The 25-year-old sprinter took his career first World Cup gold, when he won the first 500m race in Heerenveen.
Asked about the suit Lorentzen kept his thoughts to himself:
“The reason we have blue suits, is because our main sponsor has blue colors. Whether it’s faster? Maybe, I don’t know the details.”
Norway coach and former 500m world record holder Jeremy Wotherspoon (CAN) laughed mysteriously when asked about the suit:
“I don’t know enough about the research to give away the results, which is probably a good thing. But they tested a lot of things and a lot of different materials and they picked what tested the best.”
“Maybe it’s calming for the competition, to look at our color and their energy goes down. It’s a very calming blue.”
Has Team Norway created a smokescreen, they have certainly won the first psychological battle this season as everyone is talking about them and their blue suits.
Find out what Canadian sprinters Laurent Dubreuil and William Dutton have to say about the blue suit in their Speed Skating Chats on youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVcn4bvZiwg&feature=youtu.be).