SOCHI, Russia — The U.S. speedskaters shouldn’t blame their high-tech skinsuits, their high-altitude training camps or their high-performance program, according to the coach who won a record number of medals in the sport in Sochi.
They should blame the country's passion for football.
“It’s more about the system you have in your country,” said Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema in interviews with CNBC on Thursday. “You have a lot of attention for a foolish sport like American football. You waste a lot of athletic talent in a sport where it’s meant to kill each other, to injure each other and nobody in the world is competing with you at that field.”
His rant about what went wrong for the Americans came the day before the long track teams failed to win either of the quarterfinal races. The U.S. men lost to Canada, while the women lost to the Netherlands.
Anema has lead his team to a record 21 speedskating medals — with a few more on the line. No other country has ever won more medals in a single sport at a Winter Olympics.
Everyone is Sochi is wondering what the secret to Dutch success is, and he said it’s simple.
"We have found something that makes the suit very fast," Anema said. "It's the man in the suit."
He said U.S. doesn’t value its winter and Olympic sports the way it does sports that are almost exclusively American, like football. Because they don’t invest the kind of money in winter sports that they do in football, he asserts they will never be as successful as other countries like the Netherlands.
It is American arrogance that allows an expectation of medals without more serious financial support, he said.
“Come once every four years, you think with a few lone wolves who are skating, you can beat the world?” he said, obviously shocking, and at times amusing, those who were interviewing him. “There is no you can do it. America always believes they’re right, always believes that they’re the best. But that’s not true. When you come to Olympic stadium and you want to fight the rest of the world, then you know your place. Stay in your country, do your own sport, don’t compete. Don’t ask a question why you didn’t win medals.”
He said football doesn’t just consume America’s finances and attention, it “wastes” its best athletes. He did admit to enjoying the Seahawks' defeat of the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
“You put all money into that sport, not a lot of money into other sports,” he said, adding that the U.S won’t beat the Netherlands in four years — or eight years — with the system in place. “You’re so narrow-minded. You waste a lot of good talent.”
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