PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – British skeleton racer Jerry Rice has dismissed speculation that the team’s high-tech skin suits could be illegal and said people were welcome to point the finger all they liked.
British newspaper The Guardian reported this week that the “aerodynamic” suits used the same technology that had helped Team GB’s cyclists dominate at the summer Olympics since 2008.
Team USA said they expected the suits to be discussed during the team captains’ meeting on Wednesday and their women’s racer Katie Uhlaender said “a lot” of athletes and coaches had “questions”.
Rice, who will make his Olympic debut in the men’s event starting on Thursday, said the team’s equipment had been “checked and signed off” by tournament organizers.
“It doesn’t bother me, people can speculate as much as they’d like,” the 27-year-old Rice told Reuters after training at the Olympic Sliding Centre on Wednesday.
”The fact of the matter is that the British guys are fast because we’re good at sliding, no other reason. We’re innovators, we do everything we can to be as fast as we can be.
“They can point all they like but for us we just want to concentrate on ourselves.”
Rice is part of a strong British team of four, including women’s Olympic champion Lizzy Yarnold and men’s racer Dom Parsons, who made the top 10 at Sochi.
The British sledders’ results in training have been impressive, with Parsons, Yarnold and women’s team mate Laura Deas all topping the timesheets in different heats.
A tweet on Uhlaender’s twitter feed queried the legality of the suits earlier on Wednesday but the American said her account was being managed by somebody else.
“I was notified there was a little bit of an article posted and a lot of coaches and athletes had questions on whether the suit was legal,” four-time Olympian Uhlaender, who finished fourth at Sochi, told reporters.
”I think the rules state that everyone is supposed to have access to the same equipment as far as helmets and speed suits go and not have any aerodynamic attachments.
“It’s part of the game, I think if you see something that is questionably legal, it’s OK to ask.”
Team USA questioned the timing of the Guardian article, apparently suggesting mind games were at play.
“The timing of the article was perfect and a smart strategic move by the British team,” USA Bobsled and Skeleton Chief Executive Darrin Steele said in a statement.
”The rules are clear that there can’t be any aerodynamic elements attached to the suit, and we don’t expect to see any on the British speedsuits in the race.
”Athletes from various nations are talking about the British suits instead of focusing on the upcoming races.
“A large part of this sport is mental strength. It’s about who can throw down despite distractions, and we’ll see who comes out on top over these next few days.”
The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation was not able to provide immediate comment.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly