Speed Skating Hide

Team USA is stylish. From those all white medal stand jackets to their heated Ralph Lauren opening ceremony attire, they’ve got some serious fashion. But who designed the Team USA uniforms? From figure skating to curling, there are a lot of winter sports which means there are a lot of Team USA uniforms. They’ve all got to look good, right? Sure, athleticism is the reigning monarch of the Olympic Games, but it’s hard to deny that these athletes are carting around some serious style alongside that mind blowing talent.

Of course, some sports don’t require all teammates to have matching uniforms — here’s looking at your figure skating and ice dancing. Others, however, have their Olympic gear designed for them. Each team from each sport will be wearing a different uniform, and they’re special. Every single sport will have a different uniform designed by a different designer because let’s be honest they all deserve special treatment for their accomplishments, right?

From astronaut-themed suits to some seriously cool details hidden inside jackets, the Team USA athletes are all going to look killer once their hit their respective ice or snow.

At first glance, speedskating couldn’t be more boring. Two participants on metal blades glide round and around an oval ice track, and no sooner do they cross the finish line then a new pair is sent off to repeat the performance. All of their movements are nearly identical, making it impossible for the casual observer to tell the skillful skaters from the average ones. But if you keep looking, you’ll gradually enter the inner world of speedskating, and from there, from within, speedskating is among the most thrilling of sports.

In the country I come from, Norway, speedskating was once a national obsession. When I was growing up, I knew the names of skaters from the end of the 19th century to our modern times. Oscar Mathisen, Ivar Ballangrud, Hjalmar Andersen, Knut Johannesen, Fred Anton Maier — I never saw any of these legends skate, yet their names resonated like a list of kings. The media covered skating in detail, but novelists and poets wrote about it, too. One of the best-known works by Norway’s great postwar poet Olav H. Hauge is called “Kuppern Skates in Squaw Valley” and concerns the radio broadcast of a 1960 Olympic race, while Norway’s most important postwar novelist, Dag Solstad, has filled page upon page of his novels with race results.

What is it about speedskating that could bring an entire people together around the radio or television, women and men, young and old, rich and poor? What was it that compelled children to scribble down skate times and collect them in books? Why are the names of Kay Stenshjemmet, Jan Egil Storholt, Sten Stensen and Amund Sjoebrend etched in my memory 40 years after they hung up their skates for good, whereas I have long since forgotten the names of prominent politicians of the day or the teachers I had at school?The oldest ice skates that anyone has found so far were made in Finland 2,000 years before the birth of Christ, which is to say 800 years before the Trojan War depicted by Homer in the “Iliad.” These primitive devices were made from the sharpened shinbones or jawbones of cattle. Metal skates first appeared in the Netherlands during the 13th or 14th century, when Dante was writing his “Divine Comedy,” and the first speedskating competition we know of took place in England in 1763, the same year Immanuel Kant presented his proof of the existence of God. The first unofficial world championships took place in 1889, when Nietschze published “Twilight of the Idols.” It is hard to know what the ancient skaters looked like as they raced across the ice, but film footage from 1911, before the Great War, shows skaters competing at the world championships in Trondheim, Norway. We see them flashing by like strange birds beating their wings. And although much has changed in the sport since then, the basic moves look more or less the same, for there is really only one way in which to propel oneself forward at a reasonable speed on ice with metal blades under one’s feet.