Road To The Olympic Games

Japanese swimmers might wear new Speedos in Beijing

Japanese swimmers may be allowed to choose their own swimsuits, including models from foreign manufacturers, at the Summer Olympics after a new world record was set on Sunday.

Japanese swimmers might be allowed to choose their own swimsuits, including models from foreign manufacturers, at the Beijing Olympics after a new world record was set on Sunday.

Japanese swimmer Kosuke Kitajima set the world record in the men's 200-metre breaststroke in Tokyo wearing the new Speedo LZR swimsuit.

"We are thinking of giving the swimmers the freedom to choose," Japan Swimming Federation executive director Kazuo Sano said on Monday. "We have not had any big protest [from the three Japanese companies]. We would like to do what's best for the swimmers in Beijing."

After the victory, Japanese officials may be prepared to lift the restrictions they have on what suits their swimmers can wear. The Japan Swimming Federation has contracts requiring Japanese national team swimmers to wear suits made by domestic companies. 

Kitajima, the double gold-medallist in Athens, finished in 2:07.51, taking almost an entire second off the previous record, held by American Brendan Hansen.

Before testing the Speedo LZR on Sunday, Kitajima, under contract with swimsuit maker Mizuno, had been demanding that Japanese competitors be able to choose their suits.

Among the currently approved companies for Japanese swimmers are Mizuno, Asics and Descente, who unveiled new swimsuit designs to compete with Speedo at the end of May.

According to Kitajima's coach, the swimmers should be allowed to wear the Speedo LZR in Beijing, or else "it's not a level playing field."

Mizuno had licensing ties to Speedo up until last year when they ended their association and took many big swimming names with them, including Kitajima.

Mizuno managing director Jotaro Ueji had mixed emotions about the win. "I would like to congratulate Kitajima, though it's a complicated feeling seeing him break the world record in a rival swimsuit," he said. "In the two months left before the Olympics, I hope we can strive to develop an improved product for the swimmers to wear in Beijing."