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Kurt Kragthorpe and Michael C. Lewis
Kurt Kragthorpe and Michael C. Lewis report from Sochi, Russia. For more Olympics coverage, go to our Olympics page.

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Former Olympian blasts U.S. Speedskating’s preparation

Sochi, Russia • Count four-time Olympian and former world-record holder Nancy Swider-Peltz among those who think U.S. Speedskating botched its build-up to the Sochi Olympics.

In the wake of another calamitous performance, the coach of skater Brian Hansen said the team relies too much on science instead of intuition, should not have waited until the Olympics to debut the new high-tech (and since discarded) skinsuit, and should not have held a pre-Olympic training camp in Collalbo, Italy.

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"The plan was to retain the altitude that the Salt Lake City skaters had," she said, referring to those unlike Hansen who train at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns. "That is a correct idea, but there are other factors that cause you to skate differently. It started playing on people’s minds and bodies. I said I did not want to go there, but I didn’t have a choice. I fought tooth and nail, I fought for days, I wrote emails, I cried, I went crazy, I demanded, I did not want to go there. I know and feel that there was still the factor that I was not able to do with [Hansen] what I know could have made a difference."

Hansen entered the Olympics with some of the top times in the world in the 1,000 and 1,500 meters but finished ninth and seventh, respectively, far behind the winners. Shani Davis, Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe all have similarly underperformed, and U.S. Speedskating remains without a single medal.

"I think this was a fantastic U.S. team," Swider-Peltz said. "There is incredible talent. This was an incredible team that should have won the medals that were expected, hands down."

"It is a terrible heartbreak," she added. "I am going to get in trouble with it, but I don’t care anymore. I am tired of not being believed. I am tired of being told that science is the only answer, that intuition and experience are not good enough. You can’t teach a scientist to be a coach. I need to be able to do what I want to do. I had my hands tied for a period of time."

- Michael C. Lewis

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