LZR swimsuit ruining the sport

2009-03-31 09:24
Roland Schoeman (file)
In February of 2008 the world of swimming was thrown into absolute disarray. The launch of the Speedo LZR swimsuit has forever changed the face of swimming. I don’t necessarily believe for the better.

Since FINA’s approval of the Speedo suit in 2008, 108 world records have been broken. Never before have the record books taken such a dramatic knock. Swimming has moved away from just racing. Now it depends on who has the best suit out there. The problem though is that at just on $500 (US) not everyone has access to such technology. Aside from the price tag, in my experience a suit lasts maybe 10 – 15 races at best.

For those who aren’t aware of the swimsuit or what it looks like, take a look.

The suit material is paper-thin and there are strategically placed polyurethane panels that help in buoyancy and to limit wave drag. Additionally the suit has a built in core stabilizer, the core stabilizer aids in keeping a swimmer’s body position optimal through the duration of a race. Prior to LZR, swimmers had to rely on core strength and core training to maintain an ideal body position in the water. Now however you are finding less talented swimmers maintaining a high body position in the water and relying on the suit for stability rather than additional training.

Speedo lists the following advantages on its website:

- 10% less passive drag than Speedo’s previous speed suit
- Strategically placed polyurethane panels reduce skin friction by 24%
- Bonded seams provide 6% less skin friction
- Swimmers have up to 5% more economy in oxygen uptake

Scary to think that a swimsuit can provide such an advantage.

Swimmers, coaches and national federations have been screaming for greater rules and regulations governing the new swimsuit technology. Not a moment too soon as far as I am concerned. Swimmers have been abusing the new technology and are going above and beyond to try and help their performances.

At the European swimming championships in December athletes were wearing up to 3 suits at a time in order to try and help with buoyancy and compression. Swimmers are now also using kinesio-tape to try and strategically strap themselves to aid in performance.

FINA has now taken some steps to regulate the use of swimsuit technology.

Amongst the new rules swimmers may only wear one swimsuit. Swimsuits may not be more than 1mm thick. The use of polyurethane may not help with trapping air pockets for buoyancy. Another regulation is that swimmers may not use strapping to aid in performance.
Australia has now taken the rules one step further. They refuse to allow age group swimmers under the age of 18 to use the new technology swimsuits. As far as I am concerned this is an attitude that should be adopted by the rest of the world.

The new technology really has raped the ethics of the sport. Alexander Popov (The greatest sprint freestyler of our time) is in agreement. I spoke to him for a bit at these past Olympics. We’re in agreement that the new technology should be banned and we should move back to the older technology we were using up until February of 2008.
At the end of the day it should be the best swimmer that wins, not the swimmers with the most money or the best technology. If this is the way of swimming’s future more needs to be done to control the technology and to assure that everyone has access to this technology.


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