There has been an impressive amount of media coverage in the last three months regarding the super fast swimming suits that different athletes have been wearing at various medium and high level swimming events.
You might be wondering how a swimming suit can actually make you swim faster, well there is an impressive amount of technology and science behind them. As it turns out, human skin even when shaved or waxed isn’t as slick through the water as other surfaces. The first iteration of the super suits essentially provided a lower drag coefficient to the swimmer which essentially meant less of their energy was lost to the water slowing them down. The current generation super fast race suits take that to a whole new level and there are suggestions that the costumes are in fact making the swimmers more buoyant – however independent studies so far can’t prove that.
To my surprise, there has been a mixed response from the swimmers themselves – some suggesting that they are great and others such as Michael Phelps all but condemning their use and verging on suggesting that their use was cheating.
The majority of the coaches are in agreement that they shouldn’t be allowed. I was however, interested to hear Laurie Laurance’s take on them – his point of view wasn’t so much that they should or shouldn’t be allowed but that their use right now and pending banned use is going to remove the opportunity for young, future athletes to break the more than 30 world records that have fallen at the 2009 Rome World Championships alone. That is something that I think has been underestimated and not covered enough in the press.
My personal opinion is that it is just a progression of the sport, which like virtually every other sport on earth is being driven forward through technology – some more so than others. What is the difference between the advancements in a cyclists bike construction, the shoes from a track star to a swimming suit? I don’t see it and so long as the advancement doesn’t change the basic sport, then it can only be seen as a good thing.
I do however have one simple criteria that the super fast swimming suits be allowed into the sport and that is that every athlete has access to them. Some may choose to use brand A over brand B or not use them at all but the choice and availability needs to be there. It would seem as though not all athletes have access to the slick race suits due to commercial agreements their team or swimming organisation may have with another manufacturer. In that scenario, if there is any chance that the super fast suits are in fact faster in anyway at all and not everyone at least as the option of using them – its unfair and no one should not be allowed to race in them.