Every four years, right before the Olympic games begin, athletic apparel companies like Nike, Reebok, Speedo, Adidas, Puma, and many others all introduce their newest lines of Olympic gear. Whether it is for fans or athletes, the clothing is promised to be top of the line and always the next generation of sportswear. Well this year, the Speedo Company really kept that promise when it introduced the Speedo LZR Racer. After only being out for several months, the suit is already attributed to breaking over 40 records, with many more being expected to fall in Beijing. Athletes, fans, international organizations and other designers have all given support to the LZR Racer and proclaimed its greatness.
Also known as “doping on a hangar” and the “Speedo surfboard,” the Speedo LZR was first introduced in February. Within four months, individuals wearing the new suit had broken over 38 records causing other swimsuit companies to immediately complain about its fairness. The International Swimming Federation (FINA) scheduled a meeting with Speedo to review this complaint. After showing the Federation the suit’s design and explaining its physics, FINA dismissed rivals’ claims and even endorsed the suit to athletes as the future of swimwear. Could this be swimming’s version of “steroids?”
Since this ruling, more swimmers have taken FINA’s advice. Last week’s Olympics Trials saw 9 swimmers break American records, all of whom wore the LZR Racer. Michael Phelps, who could win a record eight Olympic medals in China, stated that Speedo’s LZR Racer makes him “feel like a rocket.” Katie Hoff, a world champion in individual medleys, said wearing the suit is like “flying in the water.” US national team coach Mark Schubert commented, “I think you’ll see not only multiple world records broken, but also multiple swimmers breaking world records in an event.” Everyone is giving this new innovative suit the credit.
Nike was so impressed by the LZR suit that it allowed its contract swimmers to wear the LZR in trials to keep up with other competitors. Nike sponsored World champions like backstroker Aaron Peirsol and breaststroker Brendan Hansen, did exactly that, and set American records.
“It’s a bit unprecedented,” said Nike spokesperson Dean Stoyer, “But we want our athletes to be comfortable and prepared, and we don’t want to get in the way of that.” Nike makes the rival Swift Amp’d swimsuit and is looking to copy the LZR suit and its effectiveness to compete with Speedo in the future.
The suit is made of woven fabric, which is extremely light and water-repellent. It is ultrasonically welded together rather than sewn, with compression panels placed along the chest, thighs, and buttocks, plus a corset-like “core stabilizer” to minimize drag and maximize streamlining. This new design features minimal pieces to be sewn together, which is a huge attribute to its speed and lightweight design. Instead of 30 pieces or so, the LZR features 3.
While watching the Olympic trials I heard an announcer say that it takes 2 other people to help an athlete fit into the skintight suit. The athlete must get completely naked and then force on the suit one piece at a time, with help from others. That seems to be the only controversy this suit is getting. The athletes are complaining that it is an uncomfortable situation needing others to put on the suit, but wearing it is a must if they want to be competitive this August.
I am happy that technology has advanced to the point that we can take milliseconds off our athletes times. However, I would like to question if this is really the swimwear or if it is the athletes. I have heard of cases where the athlete claims their clothing is the reason for his/her poor performance, but I believe that in this case it is exactly the opposite. I’m sure the advanced swimsuit is great and makes a big difference, but shouldn’t the athletes be getting the credit, not the $800 dollar swimsuit?