Sunday, April 13, 2008

Controversy Over the New LZR

Just in case you were looking for an edge...and had an extra $500+ to spend...we thought you'd like to know the latest in the big time swim biz, the new Speedo LZR racing suit. Years ago the introduction of swim goggles caused a similar stir but since they made such good sense for eye safety and were so inexpensive no one really complained. Now the new suit, which several of our swimmers demo'ed two weeks ago and proclaimed they felt very fast using, is taking claims of unfair advantage to a new level.

The legal question for FINA seems to center on whether or not the suit is "equipment" or a "garment". The former is a problem, the latter is not. Also, the question is/was does polyurethane fit the description of "fabric" since it is synthetic. FINA ruled this weekend that there was no problem with suits made of polyurethane and that the new material is legal. What this means is that the other suit manufacturers can now bring to market their versions.

From our view the new suit is fine. Innovation will often be controversial which doesn't make it bad or wrong. In England, at the Short Course (meters) World Championships just concluded, 18 records have been set. All but one of them using the new Speedo LZR suit. Some claim that the suit is too expensive. We know that as competition enters the marketplace prices will drop. Most technological items drop in price after their initial rollout.

As far as Mark Schubert's prediction that all World Records will fall in Beijing our response is - we hope so! Swimmers and coaches are in the business of pushing and redefining limits. We know for certain that no one will ever swim the 50 meter free in 0.00 seconds. Some time must elapse. However, we also know that the 50 meter free will be swum faster than it has currently been done. That is the nature of our game.

When the freestyle flip turn went from a mandatory hand touch to the currently allowed foot touch did that invalidate all the swimmers who previously held the record? Of course not.

Some of you are old enough to remember the early 1970's when the "Belgrade" suit was introduced for women. Previously all suits were made of nylon and for the women they had a "skirt" or panel of material at the bottom of the suit, presumably for modesty. The Belgrade suit had no such design and was made of a much thinner material. People were shocked at the exposure. But what made the suit so much faster was the very tight fit across the top of the chest and under the arms and across the back. Next to no water was "scooped" by the new suit. And records tumbled. The innovative suit was allowed after some controversy. Of course, at the same time the Europeans introduced the suit many of the Eastern Bloc swimmers were "juiced" so the suit's design was in reality hard to measure.

The ultimate question is this: Does the suit make the swimmer? The answer from this corner is a resounding NO! We feel that the race ultimately goes to the swimmer who has paid the price in terms of preparation vs. at the check out counter. Soon all of you can decide for yourselves. Watch for this new suit at your friendly swim shop!

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