MILWAUKEE -- U.S. Speedskating is coping with a $300,000 funding shortfall after its leading sponsor went bust.
DSB Bank NV was declared bankrupt on Monday by a Dutch court, putting a major burden on the governing body of American speedskating less than four months before the start of the Vancouver Olympics.
Robert Crowley, executive director of U.S. Speedskating, said the organization was scrambling to come up with additional sponsors but faced a tough task in the fragile economy.
"It's a huge blow," he said Saturday, during the U.S. trials at the Pettit National Ice Center. "It just creates a whole bunch of challenges for us when we wanted to be focusing on the Olympic Games instead of focusing on this challenge."
DSB was the biggest cash sponsor for U.S. Speedskating and was supposed to make its first payment on Sept. 1. The money never arrived, Crowley said, and now there's no chance of getting any of it.
"We're not going to let this affect the Olympic team," he said. "Our number one priority is making sure they're set. But it's going to affect a lot of stuff around it."
He said developmental programs would likely face cuts, which could have a long-term impact on a program that has produced more Winter Olympic medals for the U.S. than any other sport.
The group has landed several new sponsors in the past 45 days, including Panasonic, 24 Hour Fitness and PowerBar, but that won't nearly make up for the money it was expecting from DSB. The U.S. Olympic Committee might step in to provide some additional funding help, Crowley said.
Speedskating figures to provide some of the biggest U.S. stars in Vancouver, including Shani Davis, Apolo Anton Ohno and Chad Hedrick.
Many skaters at the U.S. trials were still wearing uniforms with a DSB logo, though a few blacked out the lettering once they learned the bank had gone bankrupt.
"It's a shame," said three-time Olympian Jennifer Rodriguez, who still had the bank's logo on the suit she wore while winning the 1,500 meters. "They were a fantastic sponsor for not only U.S. Speedskating but a lot of skaters across the world. I really don't know any of the details, but it's sad from a skater's perspective because they had been a big supporter of us."