By Keith Weir
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The United States struggled to explain their latest Olympic speed skating failure on Thursday when top-ranked duo Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe both missed out on medals in the 1,000 meters.
That left the American team without a single speed skating medal so far in Sochi, and came a day after Shani Davis, the Olympic champion in 2006 and 2010, flopped in the men's 1,000 meters on Wednesday.
World Cup leader Richardson and world record holder Bowe had been expected to break the drought but lost out to surprise winner Zhang Hong of China, with the Dutch taking silver and bronze to add to their dominance in the Adler Arena in Sochi.
"The girls are disappointed, we didn't expect this coming in," U.S. coach Ryan Shimabukuro told reporters.
"Always at the Olympics the competition is fierce, but number one and two in the world and you finish seventh and eighth, that's not a good place to be sitting," he added.
He refused to shift the blame on to a new hi-tech suit designed by sportswear group Under Armour.
"I'm not going to comment on that. Under Armour has been a great partner for us," he said.
Richardson, who said she felt under pressure as a favorite coming into the race, said that a minor change had been made to the suit.
"They did adjust one part on the back but it was just putting rubber over the mesh there so it had no effect really," she said.
Bowe, who is Richardson's training partner, also struggled to explain what had gone wrong.
"There's hundreds of variables that go into it and to try to pinpoint one thing is impossible," she said.
"In our training at Salt Lake City we're at higher altitude where the ice is faster but that's just something that we need to adjust to here in Sochi," she added.
Bowe felt her race had been going well until she reached the final stages and could not maintain her pace.
"I was on a killer one in the first 600-800 meters and then just kind of locked up," she said.
A former college basketball player, Bowe said she was determined to make the most of her first Olympics.
"I'm kind of just going to take a step back and enjoy my time with my family tomorrow in the village," she said, adding that her parents and sister were in Russia.
"I'll have a nice dinner with them and then regroup from there."
Richardson also has full family backing after local businessmen in the town of High Point in North Carolina raised $6,000 at the last minute to allow her father to join her mother in Sochi.
"I cried when I saw him," Richardson said of the unexpected extra support.
(Editing by Julian Linden)