Times Online: "...FINA, the world governing body for swimming, revealed yesterday that it is to hold a forum to discuss the use of high-tech bodysuits. The news came on the day when a German swimmer, Paul Biedermann, raced inside one of the last two world records held by Ian Thorpe, of Australia, and the 89th world record of the year brought to a close the 2008 World Cup season. ..." [Link]
From Swim News: Cornel Marculescu, Executive Director of FINA ... told SwimNews that it had been a "busy year". It was now "time to breathe, to review all issues with the suits in the sport". There could be "no doubt", he noted, that the latest generation of bodysuits enhance performance to one degree or another. "Now we know there is something there, for sure - we need to know what and where is the limit," he said. His is the first official acceptance given without hesitation or fear that it was not only the surface image of the sport that had changed. It was not good for swimming, he acknowledged, that a player such as Nike had decided to walk away from the pool.
Was that the definition of "under statement" or what? [Link]
The Canberra Times: The world governing body, FINA, faces elections next year, with long-standing president Mustapha Larfaoui of Algeria likely to be challenged by the FINA treasurer Julio Maglione of Uruguay. Both men are under increasing pressure to state their views about the future of the revolutionary swimsuits, which use compression and low-drag material more akin to plastics than fabrics to improve times, and have polarised the swimming community. ..." [Link]
My Unqualified Opinion: When Johnny Weissmuller broke a minute in the 100-meter free, he wore a short-john, swimsuit made of wool. The swimsuit must have weighed 5-kilos as soon as it got wet and I am sure that the last 15-meters of the race were overly difficult.
The evolution of swimsuit material from circa 1922 to the Nylon swimsuits of 1964 led to roughly a 10% faster WR in the 100 meter free.
Now the leap from the Nylon suit circa 1964, throughout the 1970s when caps, Lycra swimsuits and goggles were accepted, all the way through to 2008, the technology again has led to roughly 10% faster WRs in the 100-meter free. In other words, the speed gains from 1922 to 1964 have been just as symmetrical as the speed gains from 1964 to 2008.
So, is this modern day argument to repeal bodysuits about buoyancy, coefficient drag, or both?
In my opinion, coefficient drag reduction should be off the table and should be fair game for suit manufacturers. They should be allowed to make their suits as form fitting and as slippery as they want to.
However, the issue of buoyancy is important. FINA needs to define what neutral buoyancy is and come up with an obvious test to measure it. A mannequin made out of ballistics gel or live models weighed underwater while wearing the product as a de facto measure of buoyancy seems horribly obvious.
1. 100 meter free WR progression from Wikipedia: [Link]
2. German Olympic team Speedo from 1964 made out of Nylon material from the PowerHouse Museum: [Link]
The photo above is of a swimmer wearing a Nike Hydra swimsuit.