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US Ski team alpine competition suit features national anthem-inspired theme

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BOULDER, Colo. - The competition uniforms for the U.S. alpine ski team at the Winter Olympics in Sochi will feature a national anthem-inspired theme.

The different shades of red, white and blue are meant to represent the reflection of the U.S. flag on Chesapeake Bay following the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, said Matt Strackbein, production art manager for Boulder-based manufacturer Spyder Active Sports Inc. The bombardment witnessed by Francis Scott Key inspired the lyrics to the "Star-Spangled Banner."

U.S. ski team spokesman Tom Kelly said the Boulder-based company has been providing the team's ski suits since 1989. They will be worn by members of the team competing in the downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom and the super combined at the games that begin Feb. 7.

The suits are designed for speed, with proprietary, slick elastic material stitched together so the seams are on the back side to ensure maximum air flow around the suit. They're tested in a wind tunnel.

International Ski Federation rules require that the material be porous as a safety feature should a skier fall.

"If you have the right amount of air passing through the suit, then you can mitigate any harm to the athlete should they crash. They're going very fast, high speeds," Strackbein said, adding that without the porousness, the fabric could become slick on the snow "like plastic."

Additional features on the suits include carefully designed zipper pulls and anti-microbial stitching that includes thread made from silver.

Strackbein said the design and building prototypes happen in the United States. He declined to reveal where their factory is located.

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