Even we didn't guess it would be this good. When I wrote last month about Speedo's latest swimsuit—an extremely high-tech full-body wonder—three world records had already been broken by LZR-clad swimmers. Coincidence? Maybe. But, after eight more records fell in the past month, the suit is causing some serious waves.
Officials from the International Swimming Federation (FINA, the sport's governing body), want to speak with Speedo next week. With the Olympics looming you can expect the terms 'unfair advantage' and 'performance enhancing' to show up on the agenda. Nevertheless, this argument is nothing new and with each iteration of suits, records have fallen. Everyone in the sport knows today's top performances can't be compared to those from decades ago, a point Speedo VP Stuart Isaac conceded in our conversation last month.
"Yes, the swimmers today have advantages that let them go faster than swimmers ten years ago," said Isaac. "However, that's the nature of sport, whether it's tennis rackets or golf clubs or new running shoes or the composition of running tracks. I wouldn't say it cheapens it, but yes, they have an advantage over those in the past. All the people now have access to the same technology, so the best swimmer is still winning."
Ah, but therein lies the rub. Every athlete doesn't have access to this technology. When it comes to the Olympics, some countries have contractual obligations to other manufacturers. In many sports, say basketball and badminton, this is a moot point—a pair of shoes won't make any real difference. But increasingly it's clear that for swimming, a suit has a major impact on performance.
So what next? None of the logical options look good. The suit was approved by FINA and Speedo knows the rules too well to have broken one. If officials arbitrarily ban this suit, questions will be raised about where the line should be drawn. Letting each swimmer wear Speedo's model would require an implied concession from other manufacturers that its suits are inferior. But the best option is also the least likely: Every swimmer ditches the full-body suits in favor of a fresh shave and those other famous speedos.
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This article makes two points: the swimsuit has a major impact on performance, and a pair of shoes doesn't. But why?
If basketball players had to use leather sandals, and you let one guy use top athletic shoes, he would have a definite advantage.
Maybe right now we just haven't realized that all the previous swimsuits were old leather sandals?
I'm not convinced by the article's dismissal of tennis shoes and lack of explanation why swimsuits are somehow different. You can't rely only on the "broke records" argument because that falls as illustrated by the leather sandals example above.
I just want to know more.
why can't we go back to the old days of the olympics where everyone was naked and on an even playing field?
i mean, why do we ban performance-enhancing drugs, but allow performance-enhancing clothing?
KingFatty - to be fair, they are not saying that shoes don't make a difference, and swimsuits do. At least not the way you are comparing.
The quote made is this:
"Every athlete doesn't have access to this technology ... some countries have contractual obligations to other manufacturers. In ... basketball ... a pair of shoes won't make any real difference. But ... for swimming, a suit has a major impact on performance."
The key is that they are comparing the field as it sits today. So in a sport like basketball, there is not much that a single shoe manufacturer can do to give them a major edge over another. Thus having a contract with Nike or Adidas won't give an athlete a significant edge over another athlete.
You are right with the analogy about the old suits being sandals, though. I mean, these new suits, which have been out in some form or another since 2000, have significantly changed the sport. When you look at it, as of last year, only 3 world records exist from before the introduction of these new suits.
The real question now becomes - when does technology push what a human can do too far?
I would say that ultimately, if you are with a non-Speedo country, then your country is dumb, but also I would pay a lot of money for Speedo to make one of these suits for me with my country's logo and sponsor's logo (this is done a lot in other sports).
Athletes should perform nude again following the Olympic spirit! But of course, you can not even be nude in a sauna in the US without being seen as a sexual offender. To bad America and other continents are so prude. Athletes are actually very nice to look at even when naked.
For everybody who has a twisted relation to nudeness, come and visit Europe for once. There are bare boobs and other explicit body parts visible on public statues all over the place and nobody sees that as offensive or pornographic.
Not even the church!!! The actually have some of the finest statues on display themselves!
i think that swim suits can't make that much of a difference. if people are complaining than just standarize the kind of swim suit. As KingFatty says above they're not doing it for shoes, so why swimsuits???
Well KingFatty, you drastically exagerated the example, but anyways shoes do matter a little in tennis, basketball
BUT swimsuits mean a LOT more to swimmers then shoes do to tennis players or basketball players.
This is just technology marching on.
In many sports, financial world (stock markets), space race, electronics, etc., people pay BIG $$$ for a small improvement when they are on the 'bleeding edge'. This is how they stay in front.
On rare occasion it makes enough difference to overcome the competition in a big way, mainly because the competition is doing a similar thing.
In this case it seems they found what makes a dolphin swim fast with relatively little energy compared to others in the same environment. You could compare this to using a dimpled versus smooth golf ball. The dimpled goes much further, counter to 'apparent common wisdom' on the subject.
In the financial markets, faster communications and computers may allow making trades a second or two earlier, and make the difference in many $$. There statistics are kept by comparing the bottom line.
I would be interested in knowing this suits 'coefficient of drag' versus a nude body of the same shape and versus a 'standard suit' all in the same 'standardized conditions'. Judging this based on independent races of various individuals is not good science. Or we need to wait till we have a 'statistically significant' amount of date (one or two events do not qualify, try hundreds or thousands).
With the way that records have been falling there is no doubt in my mind that Speedo created a superior suit. But the argument, at least as I hear it, is that some swimmers can't get the suit because they have contractual obligations with other suit makers. Well, I don't know about you but the I am getting disillusioned by home commercialized the Olympics are getting anyways. If everyone is determined to sign contracts with specific companies, and yes I know it is necessary to get the training, equipment, experts, and myriad of other expenses paid, then tough! You signed with the wrong people. If they tell people you can't use this new suit then you can kiss all new and significant innovation in this area goodbye. Companies like Speedo and Nike are driving innovation in performance equipment in order to get into situations like Speedo is in now. These innovations start here in the extreme athletic field and end up in everyday suits, rescue equipment, etc. Don't stop this innovation! It WILL have too MANY consequences!
I don't really follow the sport, but a valid question is how drastically have records fallen since the introduction of these suits? One could do a fairly in-depth statistical analysis of the frequency of broken records before this innovation to see if there's even been a jump, and if so to what degree. There's also undoubtedly more professional swimmers and sanctioned competitions today than there were say, just 10 years ago, further increasing the likelihood of new records.
I have been a compeditive swimmer since about the age of 6. Speedo is making history with its new suit and believe me, in 2 years EVERY compeditive swimmer who wants to win (which is all of them) will have one of these suits or a knock-off.
To make a better point; what is the current standard suit that every swimmer has been using for the past 15 years called? A speedo. Do you know what happened when Speedo (the company) released their 1st speedo? The company made a metoric rise to its current position as the number one competition swim suit maker in the world and every standing record from before the speedo's release was crushed.
I find it very interesting that a number of records have been broken since the introduction of the new Speedo but I am disappointed that there is no statistics or comparisons with other products to back up claims of a "superior" or "perfect" swimsuit. Please provide this information from actual tests to either confirm or debunk this claim.
We can not expect to stop or slow technology, that is part of our world today. We love bigger, better more fantastic feats of glory. We like to see world records beaten. We like bigger explosions! (There should be bigger firework explosions at the games!)
However, if the games really want to improve ratings and keep the spirit of the games I says give each athlete a crown of olive branches to wear, that is all just two twigs. That Greeks did some amazing things but playing sport in the buff! Wow.
True, people are breaking records with this new swimsuit, but false, not ALL athletes have access to these high-tech suits.
Some countries simply can't but these suits because of earlier obligations, and the fact that maybe they just can't get them where they are. Not every country has a BIG 5 or Sports Center in it.
Anyways, I agree with the people higher up on this comment list, that people should all be able to compete fairly, and one country not have an advantage over another.
Also, having these suits as an advantage and showing them off is like telling the Olympic officials that you're on steroids...
Yes, now we know that there is this unfair advantage in the swimming industry, but I think all of us are wondering how does it work? What gives it this advantage? Don't we all come here to learn about cutting-edge gadgets, gaming, or science? Where's the information?!?!
I'm not sure how true it is of these newer suits but certainly with the earlier editions the difference didn’t actually come from a lower 'coefficient of drag'. I think they were slightly worse compared to shaved skin.
Benefits came from not having to shave all over, meaning less irritation.
Also the suits had flexible panels with elastic seems which pulled the swimmer into the correct body position in the water.
Apparently humans always have a small amount of fear in the water which creates tension and hence a poor body posture for swimming. The suits supposedly corrected that posture, making a more streamlined shape.
It makes no sense to halt technology where it is. What do you think would happen if you took any sport in the Olympics and asked the current athletes to play/perform their sport with the equipment that was in common use 50, 75 or 100 years ago? Think they would score as much, run, ski, or bike as fast? No, they would be at a disadvantage because there have been countless improvements in sporting equipment, materials, and other technologies. The solution is not to hold everyone back but for everyone to move forward.
Even if this suit is making a lot of difference (which it sounds like it is) it should be allowed to continue in use unless there is a specific reason it is unfair other than competitors can swim well in it.
The solution at this point is going to come from not changing anything. Other companies are going to have to update their technology to compete with speedo and so their athletes can compete with people wearing the speedo suit or risk losing the contracts. So, either other companies step up or I'm sure speedo would be more than happy to take their place.
Seems to me like once again buisness is getting in the way of human advancement.
Yet again such trivial things such as using unnatural means to increasing one's advantage over another using technology has come up again.
This point has been made many times by now, when do we cross the line.
If you all remember the article of the double amputee Oscar Pistorius (http://www.popsci.com/score/article/2008-05/double-amputee-sprinter-cleared-olympic-competition)
in which both his legs were removed and had athletic prostheses put onto his legs. It was blamed on technology that this man's fake running legs were more efficient than those belonging to a human.
This topic of technology giving unfair advantages has become more and more important (if not annoying) the more we move into the future.
I think it is fair to say everybody needs to be naked at the olympics. As stated before Americans and others are too prude and think it too pornographic or sexually explicit to have something like this in the nude. I am an American, but I'm glad to say that I'm not prude enough to view such trivial things as the human body to be offensive in the nude. But I think its time we take a step back and go to the nude sports because it DOES put everybody on an even playing field.
C'mon professionals and analysts!!! Lets get this topic figured out so we have one less thing to worry about when it comes to cheating!
Great point but where should they draw the line? If something has to be below a certain point of well designed or all designed the same way we end up with a bunch of boring excuses like nascar.
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Well, part of me thinks its a little unfair, but it does meet the regulations.
First off to clarify for everyone...
mathewalanfisher: the earlier editions of these suits did lower the drag coefficient. why do you think they were such a big deal. it had nothing to do with less shaving and therefore less irritation. in fact, most swimmers today, even with the full body suits, shave their entire body. the hair actually comes through the suit if they don't. and irritation has nothing to do with it. being a swimmer myself i have never had problems with "irritation" from shaving. and you talk about humans having a small amount of fear in the water causing tension and throwing off body position! i don't know where you get this info. true, the suits do help body alignment (they make the swimmer more buoyant) and they also help reduce "muscle jiggle" which saves energy and decreases lactic acid buildup allowing for prolonged periods of peak performance. as for the tension, i highly doubt it is from a "fear" of the water. i am perfectly comfortable in the water and would have to say that i believe almost every competitive swimmer at a high level is as well. the tension comes from nerves prior to a race that occur in every athlete in a big competition.
as for the return of the nude olympics that several people have talked about, that would completely eliminate any more world records in almost every facet of sport. we have already come too far with technology to turn back now. can you imagine how slow running on a track barefoot and naked would be compared to someone who has spikes to grip the turns and a suit to keep "things" from flopping. or a swimmer being told they can't use goggles after they have been in use for the past 30 years. or a marathoner that they have to run naked and barefoot (practically impossible without some form of injury). i hope by now you get my point.
lastly, being a fairly successful swimmer at the collegiate level and having trained with olympic swimmers such as Michael Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay, Kaitlyn Sandeno, and Eric Vendt i can confidently say that yes, the suit is the most technically advanced suit that has ever been made and probably has attributed to the number of world records broken since it's release but it is not only the suit. the suit does not make the swimmer, the swimmer makes the suit. the number of world records broken comes largely from advancements in training, nutrition, pool technology, and the new suits. however, i would say that out of these 4 main areas, the suit is probably the lowest contributor to the world records. we can't overlook the training that these olympians go through in order to get where they are.
advancements in technology are always going to be occurring but until we see a day where swim suits have propulsion systems on them i don't think it is fair to drop them in the same category as steroids and say that they are performance enhancing in that way.
Totally agree with michswimming above. Technology will always advance and if sports can benefit from these advancements then surely it is fine as long as peoples strength and such like are not being enhanced by drugs.
I remember playing squash in the early 1980's with my heavy wooden squash racket. These days they are so lightwieght and powerful, yet there is no call for it being an unfair advantage if I use one like this and my opponent opts for an on old one. Tough luck, get with the times and buy one yourself. www.webklyx.com