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US speedskaters hope to shrug off heavy air

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Coach Ryan Shimabukuro proposed a novel idea for his U.S. Olympic speedskaters to overcome the heavy air they're expected to combat at the Vancouver Games.

"We've actually been having them pulling a Volkswagen Beetle behind us," the national head sprint coach said with a wide grin Sunday.

Of course, Shimabukuro was joking about the bug.

What the U.S. team members are taking seriously is how they've prepared for the slower conditions they expect to face at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Team members who train in the higher elevations at Salt Lake City, Utah, have been wearing specially designed drag suits to mimic the conditions they'll face in suburban Vancouver, a few feet above sea level.

"I definitely saw the benefits of it," coach Derek Parra said during a team news conference. "It makes you work hard. You decelerate the way you would at sea level. So when you put your normal suit on, it gets a little bit easier."

Parra acknowledged the ice is "not incredibly fast," and said it seems particularly slower when all the lights are on inside the facility.

His main concern is not how slow the ice might be but that it's consistent for everyone.

He believes endurance will play a key role in determining medal winners.

"You have to be willing to work here," Parra said. "Technique is not going to be as much important as brute strength, I think, in the final laps, because you're going to have to fight for everything you've got."

That's just fine with 20-year-old Trevor Marsicano, who does much of his training at a lower elevation in Milwaukee, Wis.

"I'm used to having to fight through the extra air and the slower ice," Marsicano said. "For me, it's just normal. So I'm just going to show up and skate like I normally do."