Speedo suit expected to help swimmers rewrite records in Beijing
U.S. coach recommends high-tech design to all athletes, no matter their sponsor
A new swimsuit is making such a splash that U.S. swim coach Mark Schubert believes every record in the sport could fall at the Beijing Olympics.
Since the Speedo LZR Racer was unveiled in February, 19 long-course world records have been set, along with four short-course marks.
The new Speedo suit has been worn in all but one of the 23 records.
At this point in 2004 — the last Olympic year — five world records had been set.
Swimming's world governing body decided last weekend not to ban the new high-tech suit, despite claims of buoyancy and "technological doping" by some critics.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see every world record broken at the Games, and hopefully we'll get a big percentage of those," said Schubert, one of the most outspoken supporters of the new swimsuit.
Jessica Hardy of the United States became the latest record-holder in the women's 50-metre breaststroke at the short-course world championships on Thursday.
NASA had a hand in designing the LZR, and Speedo claims it makes swimmers go two per cent faster.
"They say that the suit is rocket science, but the stats are not rocket science," Schubert said. "The proof is in the performance."
Schubert said he will go so far as to recommend that every American wear the Speedo suit at the U.S. Olympic trials in June — even if they are sponsored by another company.
"I would strongly advise them to wear the suit at trials, or they may end up at home watching on NBC," Schubert said. "Do you go for the money or for the gold? These athletes have been dreaming about winning an Olympic medal since they were eight or 10 years old and nobody can afford to give up two per cent."
Four prominent Americans are sponsored by Nike — Brendan Hansen, Aaron Piersol, Jason Lezak and Kaitlin Sandeno.
The Italians wear Arena and the Japanese use Mizuno. Swimming Canada recently reached a $2.5-million, eight-year sponsorship agreement with Speedo.
FINA is due to meet with swimsuit manufacturers on Saturday, and there are no plans to ban the LZR. Other companies are clearly behind.
"I feel very sorry for them," Schubert said. "Get with it."
At a disadvantage
Italy head coach Alberto Castagnetti has said wearing the LZR amounts to "technological doping."
Massimiliano Rosolino, an Italian who has won 17 medals in Olympics and world championships, said something needs to be changed "right away."
"It's not a matter of technology," Rosolino said. "The matter is one suit has much more flotation. If I were to go out there in a scuba suit it wouldn't be fair either. There's something not right about it.
"It has to be fair for everyone."
Rosolino is using a new Arena suit that was supposed to compete with the LZR, but he said it hasn't changed much.
"I have the new one but it's just lighter than the old one," Rosolino said.
Alessia Filippi, another prominent Italian, agreed.
"We're at a big disadvantage," she said. "I think we all need to have the same [type of] suit at the Olympics, and Arena is working on it. But they've got to hurry. We're behind."
Speedo is a top sponsor of U.S. swimming and Schubert made his comments while wearing a polo shirt emblazoned with the English manufacturer's logo.
"I'm not saying this just because they pay part of my salary," Schubert said. "I'm all about performance and I believe in the product."
Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe used the LZR to set a world record in the 400 individual medley on Wednesday. On Thursday, she picked up her second gold of the championships by breaking her own meet mark in the 100 backstroke.
"It's definitely good for the sport but the bottom line is you still have to swim hard," Coventry said. "All suits for me are mental."