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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Streamlining swim with high-tech suits

    Freshman  Kevin Munsch powers through a breaststroke in his Speedo LZR racing suit during a UA dual-meet win against ASU Saturday at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. The suit is a hot topic in the swimming community as some think the technology behind it doesnt keep the sport at a level playing field while others say advancements are inevitable.
    Freshman Kevin Munsch powers through a breaststroke in his Speedo LZR racing suit during a UA dual-meet win against ASU Saturday at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. The suit is a hot topic in the swimming community as some think the technology behind it doesn’t keep the sport at a level playing field while others say advancements are inevitable.

    In a sport of speed, endurance and skill, a competitor will opt for anything that can improve their time by just hundredths of a second. And for swimmers, technology has allowed for competitors to add those hundredths of a second, and then some.

    Enter Speedo, which last year introduced the Speedo LZR racing suit, taking the swimming world by storm. More than 100 records have been broken since the introduction of the LZR and several similar suits by other companies, including the Tyr and Blue Seventy designs.

    Although the slivers of fabric may chop off seconds from even a 100-meter race, elite swimmers and coaches at the UA find the suits troubling.

    “”Basically, I just really don’t think it’s right,”” said senior Taylor Baughman. “”I guess it’s fair that everyone has the opportunity to wear them, but so many records were falling and it’s not really the athletes going faster, it’s the technology that’s getting better.””

    The concerns lie in the unequal access some teams – from universities to national teams – have to the best suits while others cannot even afford sub-par equivalents.

    “”(Arizona is) at an advantage because of the past success, but for some of the smaller teams … they’re really expensive suits,”” Baughman said.

    With the LZR costing around $500, some national teams fall behind even before their teams hit the water.

    The various suits each have their own advantages. The LZR, for example, is known for its compression system, while the Blue Seventy emphasizes flotation. When the suits were first introduced, swimmers would often wear two suits to gain both advantages, a practice that is no longer legal.

    On the other hand, Canadian Olympian Joel Greenshields said the technological advancements are inevitable.

    “”I just think pretty much in every sport, there’s a technical advancement like in track, they invented the new track which made people faster,”” he said. “”Just like in swimming there’s going to be new suits and better pools that make everyone faster anyway.

    “”Swimming started with everyone wearing a full-body wool suit,”” he added, “”so if you wanted to stay in the wool suit now, we’d all be sucking in the wool suit. Technology will change, always.””

    The concern that the suits present may not only detract from the fairness between teams. Head coach Frank Busch is concerned about how the suits affect the swimmers’ focus.

    “”It’s a distraction,”” he said. “”I’ve never seen people freak out more when it comes to racing, than if they couldn’t get the suit or the suit didn’t fit right. I’ve never seen people lose complete focus on a race until now.””

    While some coaches ask their swimmers to swim most meets with the suits on, Busch believes it takes away from the edge that swimmers get from the suits. He also believes it distracts the competitors from their own swimming, making not wearing the suit an excuse for poor performances.

    “”When we come up against somebody and you’re wearing the same suit they’re wearing, I want you to get up there and race for the purpose of racing, and not within the back of your mind, ‘I wish I had a suit so I could be more competitive,'”” he said.

    In Busch’s mind, relying on any piece of material other than one’s own performance can damage the sport, distracting swimmers by giving them a crutch to lean on when their regular practice suits let them down.

    “”I don’t want to rely on anything to go fast,”” Busch said. “”I want our people to think they can go fast with their mom’s underwear on.””

    But with every other team donning the full-body suits, Busch is coming around, realizing he wants to place his swimmers in the best position to win. Likewise, even the swimmers who believe the suits are unfair cannot deny how effective they are in the water.

    “”You definitely feel less resistance, and you feel like you’re going faster,”” said freshman breaststroker Kevin Munsch. “”I also like the feel of the fabric, the compression.

    “”Scientifically, they’re going to make you go faster whether you feel it or not,”” Munsch said.

    In the end, the suits have caused unrest in the swimming community. Sponsorships for national or college teams force some swimmers to wear suits they dislike. Greenshields, for example, was sponsored by Speedo on his Canadian national team.

    Without any way of placing limits upon technological advancements, it will be interesting to see how the sport will adapt in dealing with these streamlined suits that have caused so much turmoil.

     

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