Team Belgium joins protest against UK’s Olympic speedsuits

Summary

A controversy has cropped up in the skeleton competition at the Olympic Winter Games, as Belgium’s one competitor joins others in filing a complaint about the UK’s skinsuits

Smart sport or cheating?

Team Belgium’s Kim Meylemans has joined other Olympic athletes in a formal complaint against the speedsuits worn by British skeleton competitors. The new suits have been specially designed with advanced aerodynamic technology and are also credited with helping the UK dominate cycling in the last three summer Games.

The suits – developed by scientists to be acutely drag-resistant, reducing wind resistance substantially – became the subject of controversy at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang when British skeleton competitors performed well above their normal speeds in training sessions.

The British competition, Meylemans told Sporza, “has suddenly improved by leaps and bounds”. The suits, she said, “actually have a kind of spoiler in them. That does not conform to regulations, so we are joining other countries in protesting this.”

Meylemans, who was born in Germany to Belgian parents, is the first skeleton athlete to represent Belgium in the Olympics. The sport, which sees a single person on a specially designed sled reaching speeds of up to 145 km/h on a bobsled track, has only been part of Olympic competition since 2002.

Money = gold

“Suits are not allowed to have a special coating,” said Meylemans. “They have to be made of normal textiles and without spoilers.”

The British suits were also custom made for each athlete. “The British have done what anyone with money is doing now: Look for improvements in materials and invest in them,” said Meylemans. “I can’t blame the athletes; if I could get one of those suits, I would wear it, too.”

Which is the problem, according to athletes and coaches from other countries. The competition becomes unfair when it’s not based on skill, but on expensive equipment. “We will see if the federation is courageous enough to do something about this,” said Meylemans.

Photo: The UK skeleton team’s schnazzy new suits court controversy
©Arnd Wiegmann/REUTERS

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