Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mark Savage on Dara Torres remarkable success: "It's the suit, stupid!"

"... Mark Savage has left a new comment on your [blog] post: "Showdown in Westwood: 'blueseventy' versus the 'Jaked": ..."

Just some food for thought here - Erik Hochstein was 6% faster with the [Jaked] speed suit than he was without it. What if we generalized and applied this 6% difference to an historical swim?

In 1984, Dara Torres set a world-record in the 50 free with a 25.61. In 2008, wearing a speed suit, she set an American record in the 50 free with a 24.07. The difference in the two times? 6%

My take: Dara had a fortune and plenty of time on her hands to stay elite. Plus with new training methods, nutrition, and stretching, I think Mark posts a really good argument.

Mark Savage is a celebrity photography for Corbis living and working in L.A.. Here is a link to some of his work. [Link]


Scott said...

How does the suit explain her sudden improvement and muscle gain for the 2000 Sydney Games?

Anonymous said...

Hey Scott,

You and Tony probably know a lot more than I do about Dara's swimming since the 2000 Games. Tony certainly knows more about speed suits than me. I don't even own a speed suit.

Lately, I've been wondering how fast the world class swimmers of the 1970's and 1980's would have gone had they had the benefit of today's speed suits. So much of the debate over the past couple of years has been which speed suit is faster, not how much faster are the speed suits of today compared to the suits of the 80's.

So after I read about Erik's experiment, it occurred to me that Dara Torres would be a good candidate to apply this 6% difference. I remembered her world record in the 50 free from 1984 and subtracted 6% - it just so happens to match her American record in the same event from last year.

Now would Dara have gone 24.0 for a 50 free in 1984 had she been wearing a speed suit? We will never know for sure, but I believe it would have been much faster than 25.6.

Mark Savage

Scott said...

As Tony has pointed out there have been a lot of other changes in swimming due to technical advances - most notably pool design, equipment (not counting today's suits that would mean goggles), training methods and stroke technique. The fact that the new suits allow for faster swims is not in doubt anymore. The big question is by how much? And what the past's greats such as Dawn Fraser, Mark Spitz, Johnny Weissmuller and the rest would have done with all the advantages today's elite have? The latter question is at the heart of the controversy going on right now with today's technosuits. As for Dara Torres ... well I'm not the person to praise her accomplishments and I'll leave it at that.