July 27 - After being forced to revise the technology used in its swimsuits when the swimming federation FINA outlawed full-body, impermeable suits in 2009 Speedo says it's come up with a new approach inspired by torpedo design. Matt Cowan reports.
Typically, technology is about moving forward and going faster. But in 2009 the swimming federation FINA outlawed the full-body, impermeable suits which had come to dominate the sport. Late last year, the swimwear company Speedo unveiled its newest line called Fastskin3 with the help Olympic Champion Micheal Phelps and his U.S. teammates. Speedo's Vice-President of product and marketing Sean Hastings says the pared down suits work together with the goggles and cap as one system. SOUNDBITE: Sean Hastings, Speedo Product and Marketing Vice-President, saying (English): "Well, when the Fastskin suits originally came out it was called the sharkskin suit because the dermal denticle pattern on it was one of the things that made it fast. In 2008 the LZR suit that won 95 percent of gold medals in Beijing used polyurethane panels to help make the swimmer more hydrodynamic and faster through the water. The rules changed and if you want an analogy of what's the Fastskin racing system about, it's trying to make the swimmer into a torpedo. We're trying to take all the lumps and bumps and curves and make that into a perfect cylindrical shape like a torpedo, because that's the fastest shape through the water." Speaking of lumps and bumps and non-cylindrical forms, Speedo invited a group journalists including yours truly to squeeze into these new suits to experience what it feels like to follow in the swim strokes of Olympians. James Hickman is a five-time world champion swimmer turned global marketing manager for Speedo. NAT SOUND Head and waist measured, it's time to look at the eyes...which are found to be average. Like a certain someone's swimming style. SOUNDBITE: Matt Cowan, Reuters Technology Correspondent, saying (English) "So I do feel faster than I normally would. I have to say, I don't normally swim for speed. Everything feels a little bit more compact but I do feel that Michael Phelps' records are safe...at least from me." The research manager for Speedo's Aqualab Joe Santry says the new system for female swimmers is inspired by c SOUNDBITE: Joe Santry, Aqualab Research Manager saying (English) "So where you might see a time trial cyclsit wearing an aerodynamic pointy helmet what we've tried to do is create that in a cap for the female. So they've go an inner hair cap they put on before the silicon cap and what it does is moulds their hair from what used to be a big ball on their head to a very smooth form, so the water flows over their head without hitting any lumps of hair and straight down over their back." Still, if swimmers do not have the benefit of additional buoyancy or shark-like dermal denticles in their suits that does raise an important question. SOUNDBITE: Matt Cowan, Reuters Technology Correspondent, saying (English) "It's not an equal playing field. Is there any chance records will fall?" SOUNDBITE: James Hickman, Speedo Global Marketing Manager saying (English) "There's definitely the chance records will fall because people always get faster. That's one thing I learned when I swam is that it doesn't matter. I had a world-record and someone is going to swim faster in the same suit, not the same suit. People want to get faster. If you look at last year, two world records were broken by Ryan Lochte and Sun Yang wearing the LZR Racer suit which was a tier back suit and they broke world records." These swimsuits, designed to compress and cajole the human body into a faster form, are not for the leisurely paddle. So the real test will come when the world's best swimmers line up against one another at the Olympics. Matt Cowan, Reuters