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Nike, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour and Columbia Sports Wear are just a few of the apparel companies that have designed costumes for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Some of the looks have been released to press, and aside from Norway's jazzy curling outfits, the most buzzed-about so far seem to be—as Racked's brother site SB Nation pointed out—the US's crotch-tastic speed skating suits.
Racked recently caught up with Apolo Ohno, American short track speed skater and eight-time Winter Olympic medalist commenting for NBC at Sochi, to ask his opinion on this year's costumes. In the process, we also got some inside details about those spandex body suits.
Are you excited to be providing commentary at Sochi this year?
"I'm very excited! This is my background and my sport. I've been doing this for 15 years and my experience gives me an extra in on what's happening on the ice."
Apolo Ohno at the 2010 Olympics. Image via Getty.
You've retired from competing. Do you ever have the urge to get back on the ice?
"I used to. But now, not so much. I'm happy with my career. At this point, I feel blessed to have had such a long career on the ice, and I'm involved in the sport without being actively involved. I'm hopefully that my expertise will be able to give people insight."
Tell us about your personal style: What do you like to wear?
"It really depends. I happen to love fall and winter clothing. I'm based in LA so I don't get a chance to wear them but I love pea coats, and layering clothing. I also like suits, slacks, and jeans. [Designers like] Armani, Dior, Zegna."
In your opinion, what's the best costume choice to skate in?
"Everything we skate in is custom-made. The costumes have to be super aerodynamic, have speed efficiency and need to be flexible. It's great to have something that you can wear on the ice but that you can also wear when you are going out."
Are the suits warm?
"They are semi-warm. The racing suits have full Kevlar underneath, and the cut-proof material has layered protection that gives people warmth because when you're going 40 miles per hour on the ice, it's going to get really cold."
They look tight. Are they hard to get into?
"Well, they are form-fitting. They aren't the most comfortable things but the material stretches. They're really tight but I never really had an issue."
Where you ever forced to wear something that was uncomfortable?
"Oh, very often! Whenever we did testing for the newest technology for racing suits, some of the material didn't always stretch, so we'd have to go back and forth with [different options.] There were times when I was uncomfortable but it wasn't very often. I know that this year's team suit is designed with super high-grade material. It's supposed to be very fast."
Did the look of the costume ever sacrifice comfort?
"Mine were usually okay. I was always highly focused on comfort, as opposed to aerodynamics. If something isn't comfortable, you don't race the same way."
Why is there always emphasis on the crotch? Did you ever feel exposed?
"[Laughing] Well, it is what it is. I know that when I'm out there, it's cold and that is the last thing I'm going to be thinking about."
When you were competing, your trademark was your red bandana. What was the inspiration behind that?
"I just got used to wearing mine during training. I'd be sweating so much that I didn't want the sweat to roll into my eyes. Eventually I couldn't train without it and it stayed."
Do you think athletes should distinguish themselves with a specific wardrobe accessory, like what you did with your red bandana?
"Yeah, I think so. It's hard to see who's who, especially when you're wearing a helmet so an accessory would help."
Are there any specific skaters viewers should keep their eyes on?
"I can think of three. For long track, there's Shani Davis, who is a close friend of mine. He's trying to break history, and do something that's never been done before [by winning the same event at three Olympic Winter Games,] which is always pretty cool. For short track, watch Eddie Alvarez. He's Cuban-born, a Miami kid, and he didn't grow up on the ice. Also, watch JR Celski. He's threatening a place for long distance and he happens to be from my hometown."