High-Tech Swimsuits Are A Drag on Wallets

High-Tech Swimsuits
Are A Drag on Wallets

by -
Inverness Forest’s Natalya Ares is one of many local swimmers who have begun using high-tech fastsuits. The swimsuits can cost more than $500. (By Deb Lindsey, The Washington Post)
Inverness Forest’s Natalya Ares is one of many local swimmers who have begun using high-tech fastsuits. The swimsuits can cost more than $500. (By Deb Lindsey, The Washington Post)

The first time Andrew McGehee put on a Speedo LZR, he needed 10 minutes to fit himself in the skintight, rubber-like swimsuit. A stark change from the old-school Speedo briefs he had worn all his life, the LZR felt like a “really, really, really tight pair of pants.”

The Rockville-Montgomery Swim Club swimmer, 18, bought his high-tech suit last summer, after watching Michael Phelps and company break records and win Olympic medals wearing the LZR. Soon, the suits began popping up at local pools, and on the starting blocks at meets such as the Potomac Valley Swimming Long Course Senior Championships, which begin today at the University of Maryland.

The PVS Championships bring out the region’s best, and this year, many swimmers competing in the meet feel they need to wear the best to beat the best.

“Everyone feels like they can go faster in one,” Curl-Burke swimmer Alex Doonis, 15, said. “You see all the faster times [with the high-tech suits] and you say, ‘Hey, if I try this, I can swim faster, too.’.”

Though the most common suits among PVS swimmers are the Speedo Fastskin FSII and FS-Pro and the BlueSeventy Nero, which are no longer worn at the professional level because they have been replaced by faster models, the Speedo LZR is quickly becoming the go-to suit among PVS’s elite swimmers. It is an abrupt leap for parents unaccustomed to spending so much money on swimsuits.

“The typical high-end suit went from $100 with the Fastskin to $300 with the FSII and FS-Pro, and then all of a sudden, in the past year, it jumped to $550 for a swimsuit,” said Bob York, who owns Aardvark Swim and Sport owner in Chantilly.

Still, the LZR’s $500-plus price tag and the fact that its benefits are said to diminish considerably after five swims are no deterrents for parents who feel they need to “keep up with the Joneses” at the pool.

“If they’re the only one up there — if seven have the tech suits and one doesn’t — it’s a huge mental disadvantage,” said Erin Vincent, mother of Curl-Burke swimmer Taylor Vincent, 13.

Donna Wittenauer, whose son Chase Wittenauer, 17, also swims at Curl-Burke, agreed.

“There are tremendous amounts of kids wearing these suits,” she said, “and it does give them an advantage, so we needed to give my son that advantage also.”

Robbye Fox, mother of RMSC swimmer Brady Fox, 18, said the competitive nature of sports can leave parents feeling as if they have no choice.

“Parents don’t want to be the reason their kids are held back from achieving,” Robbye Fox said. “I wouldn’t want ‘We didn’t buy him a suit’ to be the reason why he didn’t achieve something.”

Worried parents have consulted one another at PVS and summer swim league meets about the suits.

“We’re all asking each other and talking about it, because we think we should go get them,” said Astou Gould, mother of RMSC swimmer Serge Gould, 16. “Who doesn’t want their child to improve?”

Even the lower-tier suits are costly. On Speedo’s Web site, the Fastskin FSII retails for $320 for a men’s hi-neck bodyskin. The same model for the FS-Pro retails for $340. But while those are expensive, they are affordable options compared to the next tier of high-tech suits. The BlueSeventy Nero men’s long-leg competition suit sells for $395 at BlueSeventy’s online store, while the Speedo LZR hi-neck bodyskin is $550 on the Speedo site. The LZR is recommended for just five to seven swims, and though swimmers often save the suit for major competitions, parents typically must buy a new one at least once a year.

At the middle levels of amateur swimming, the worth of these suits is debatable. The suits offer some physical advantages in the water. The material is designed to push water away from the swimmer, streamline the body, increase buoyancy and reduce drag. They can make all the difference in races that are won by one one-hundredth of a second. But at the PVS level, where races often are won by seconds, the difference is negligible.

However, swimmers feel the real edge provided by the high-tech suits is mental. Swimmers said they “felt faster” in the suits, even if there was no difference in times.

“I didn’t go any faster, but you feel faster, though,” Eric Ruggieri, 15, said. “All the suits are a lot more mental than physical, but it was kind of crazy how big of a difference it made.”

Parents agreed.

“These suits give them a mental edge,” Beverly McGehee, mother of RMSC swimmer Andrew McGehee said. “They feel like they’re going to do better, so it gives them confidence.”

Because the suits are so expensive, many swimmers receive them as gifts. Doonis received her LZR for her birthday. RMSC swimmer Ruggieri received his LZR as a gift from his grandmother. Kevin Vallario, 18, of the Flying Gulls Aquatic Club, received his BlueSeventy Nero as a Christmas gift.

“We asked what he wanted for Christmas, and he said he really wanted the suit,” Bob Vallario, Kevin’s father, said. “We said, ‘Well, then we can’t get you other things too,’ but all Kevin wanted was the suit.”

Many swimmers buy the LZR at a steep discount. Some local clubs, including RMSC and Curl-Burke, are sponsored by Speedo, enabling those swimmers who make the Junior Nationals squad to receive a 65 to 70 percent discount. For many parents, the price cut made a huge difference.

“I probably wouldn’t have bought it if we couldn’t get it for $150,” Heidi Harper, mother of Machine Aquatics swimmer Shannon Harper, 14, said. “I would have said no.”

For those swimmers who do not qualify for the discount, the cost is often too much.

“I’m not going to national meets, and they’re very expensive, so I’m going to stick with the FSII I have, because it helps me for what I need,” RMSC swimmer Joanna Ladas, 16, said.

Ladas added that she did not believe she was at a physical disadvantage because she did not wear the suit. “I don’t think it’s where I can win or lose a race,” she said.

Coaches are concerned that the rise of high-tech suits is creating what amounts to an arms race in the pool. RMSC Coach Mark Eldridge worries that the focus of swimming was shifting from athletes to suits.

“The accomplishments of these local swimmers are all being overshadowed by the fact that they might be wearing a particular bathing suit,” Eldridge said. “That’s a shame.”

Curl-Burke founder Rick Curl agreed.

“The suits are taking a lot of the focus away from a sport that didn’t usually rely on equipment for success,” Curl said.

Still, coaches endorse the suits to their swimmers in order to stay competitive.

“It used to be me against you, and now if I don’t have the suit, you have an advantage,” said York, who is also the founder of York Swim Club. “But as long as they make a faster suit, everyone is going to want one. You can’t let anyone have an advantage.”

York’s store sold out of the LZRs in two months, which he said is unheard of for such an expensive suit. Demand has not slowed. A new crop of high-tech polyurethane suits has recently been approved by FINA, the world governing body of swimming, and local swimmers foresee it trickling down to the amateur level soon. Parents might find themselves shopping again next year, as the once-esteemed LZR is now being replaced at the professional level by newer models that, in some cases, are not yet commercially available.

“The Arena [X-]Glide or the Jaked, those usually come out a few months after they come out at worlds, so we’ll probably see those in six months,” McGehee said. “PVS takes a while to catch on.”


  1. High-Tech Swimsuits Are A Drag on Wallets. Why can’t I forward this article to my son in Los Angeles? I don’t see any control button to allow me to send an eamil message to my son with this article attached. What’s up?

  2. This article has me rolling with laughter. As a former collegiate and junior tennis player, I remember all of these little rich kids with their expensive racquets and tennis clothes. They and their parents said the same things. I enjoyed beating them with my oblong, second-hand racquets and cut-off t-shirts. Here’s my tip: if you want a mental advantage, saunter up to the start in some cut-off jean shorts and let your superior training, athleticism, and common-sense prove the day.

  3. Can someone explain why the suits only last for a limited amount of swims? Thanks. I’m sending this to my daughter who wants to major in Material Science Engineering with a focus on sports equipment and I know she will ask the same questions.

  4. For Jim Cross:

    Go to your browser’s URL window (where you see http://)
    Highlight the URL, then right click and select ‘Copy’
    Open your email program
    Start a new email
    Go to the body of the email and either press CTRL+V or right click and select ‘Paste’

    Simple enough to do without the need of a button on the article’s page…

  5. ‘We feel like we’re faster wearing the super pricey suit even though we’re not–its great’.

    ‘We live in North Potomac–it doesn’t matter that the post office knows it as Gaithersburg–we feel richer already.’

    give me a break.

  6. No swim suit will actually improve your child’s ability. The point of sports is self improvement, not winning. This is like scheduling races only when there is a strong tailwind.

    Even cycling, perhaps the sport most dependent on quality of equipment, has set limits at which things have been deemed to have become ridiculous. Swimming needs to step in, particularly at junior levels.

  7. Um, just say no. I mean, look at the kids in the image accompanying the article (or at least the one I could see). These are not world class swimmers, with all due respect. A $30 dollar suit isn’t going to necessarily be a handicap for them. For those parents who can’t say no, sorry, no sympathy from this quarter.


  8. In a sport where the reasons for winning a close race can be many, and are usually unknown, how does this suit give a young athlete confidence? It would seem to do the opposite – undermine it. Was it your hard work, your dedication, your talent, or the suit?

    A parents whose child tell them a $500 swimsuit will give them more confidence is being gullible. They are telling you that because it makes you open your wallet. If they said, “it will make me appear wealthy,” which is much closer to the truth, would you buy it just the same?

    Spend the money on 25 good books for your son or daughter, or better yet, a few swimming lessons at the YMCA for some poorer kids who can’t even make it to the other end of the pool.

  9. I agree with Bob Riley. Ban them. There is no reason to allow costs for amatuer-level junior sports to get out of hand. The most cost effective solution is also the easiest. Everyone stays on the same level starting block.
    I grew up in the pool, swimming competetively. To work out, we wore multiple worn-out or oversized cheap “brief style” suits to add drag…to race we put on one. Total cost was probably $30 dollars, as you do need a new suit at least once a year, and the old suits get demoted to workout duty.
    I won races, I lost races, I enjoyed a childhood filled with competetive sports and excercise. There is no reason why that can’t be done on a budget, I know my mother did it.

  10. Swimmers should all wear the same suit. Better yet, they should swim naked. That way, the best swimmer wins, not the best lab technician.

  11. Jim Cross: Highlight and copy the article and then paste it in an email. If you have your email address open ” in a tab” you can go to compose and paste the article and send it to your son 😉 Not to hard to do. 😉

  12. Well, why not flippers…or flippers with small water jets…or putting bubble propulsion onto the feet of the suit? I mean, if swimming has kind of made a decision to move to external equipment in order to enhance times, why just stop with a Speedo LZR – why not see just how much higher tech and, even, mechanized bathing suits can be made towards helping the manufacturers generate bigger and bigger profits? Where, exactly, does this stop and how, exactly, shall we now define swimming? Perhaps the record books should be divided between ‘human’ and ‘mechanical’ or ‘modified’ since at the highest levels, the times clearly are impacted. And even if these suits are here to stay, why would any but internationally elite swimmers need to make such a purchase?

    I swam for a number of years through high school and most of college as well as with a couple of different private clubs to include NBAC (before the current crop of recognized stars were even born, I might add!). Believe me when I say that I spent a lot of time in the old Speedos! When these high tech swimsuits first hit the water more recently, I was kind of torn, to be honest. Certainly, other sports have their unique equipment and other gear to help improve performance while enhancing safety. But swimming is..should be – used to be, anyway…different. Swimmers’ performance is based on the ability, perseverance, and strength of the swimmer and the strength, quality, and persistence of the swimmer’s training. These new suits seem to risk altering that relationship.

    And that altered relationship risks also creating even more obvious ‘classes’ of swimmers while making them more and more overt and obvious. That is, those who can versus those who can’t or won’t afford these things. In the same way all football players, for instance, have access to the same basic equipment sets so, too, I think, should swimming if these suits are the future. As I’ve thought, watched and read, I have become more concerned over the use of these suits overall and, more specifically, how they risk differentiating haves versus have nots. So, where now does this stop?

    Will families who know that they will probably never be able to afford these things try to steer their kids from swimming and to sports which supply the needed equipment? One of the glories of swimming has been that most anybody with a swim suit could often give it a try. What is (and is there) an acceptable next step in the ‘mechanization’ of swimmers and swimming? While I know that the Genie can rarely be put back in the bottle, I no longer truly support the use of these swim suits and, most assuredly, their widespread use. And what is with this 5 – 7 swims thing? For $500, I would expect to have something I can use for more than a few carefully selected months!

  13. I was really disappointed when the governing body declared these things legal for competition. I don’t see any difference between swimmers artificially enhancing their performance through something on their body, as opposed to something in their body. Whether it’s designer drugs or designer suits, it’s still an artificial advantage.

  14. “Parents don’t want to be the reason their kids are held back from achieving,” Robbye Fox said. “I wouldn’t want ‘We didn’t buy him a suit’ to be the reason why he didn’t achieve something.”

    Well, excuse me. These parents don’t understand that a little bit of adversity makes character. I remember in the Spring of 1975, when some parent bought a beginning tennis player a new Head composite tennis racquet for $400 ($1100 in today’s dollars). In 1975, composites were the “new thing.” No matter what the racquet was, the person still couldn’t hit the darn ball and beat the heck out of the racquet.

    Some parents are just plain nuts or overindulgent. Besides the only person that ever looked really good in a Speedo was in the poster adorned Farah Fawcett-Majors. Now, how about that for being timeless?

  15. To Oldswimmer: that’s exactly what’s happening. If you followed the national championships recently, you saw that there are more high tech suits now than the Speedo LZR, so Michael Phelps and others sponsored by Speedo are considered to be at a technical disadvantage in not having the newer, fancier suits. No matter–they were winning races anyway. And, indeed, the record books often ARE indicating which suit was worn to hit the new records so that subsequent generations, assuming they come to their senses and stop wearing these ridiculous suits, can tell which records may have been due to the suit and not entirely to the swimmer.

  16. Not to rip on the Post, but wasn’t this story published in the sports section about 1.5 months ago? Any reason they’re recycling it on the front page of the website?

  17. First off, the article says the new suits are “designed to push water away from the swimmer, streamline the body, increase buoyancy and reduce drag.” Any suit that increases buoyancy is illeagal. If that were the case, swimmers would be in wetsuits, like triathletes.

    Second, if you’re not winning races, or losing by milliseconds, you are going to look pretty foolish toeing the blocks in a $500 suit that mommy bought you.

    Third, go old school. Some of the swimmers in last night’s NVSL All Star Relay Carnival went skimpy Speedo brief and shaved legs and still beat kids in LZRs

  18. As a National level swimmer. I do like the fact that USA Swimming has put a ban on these suits for anyone under the age of 15. When you get above that age you start getting into the High School state meets, Junior Nationals and Senior National levels and these meets are the culmination of what we have been working for over the past year and when you step up on the blocks, you want to know that you have done everything possible in your power to make sure you are going to go as fast as you can go. This includes eating right, sleeping right, making all your practices, hitting your taper perfectly, even as far as did I miss a spot of hair on my legs while I was shaving last night….and YES do I have a fast suit. For anyone who hasn’t been at a National level swimming competition it would be very hard to actually realize how much things like this can play with your mind. I am all for the advancement of technology in our sport and I welcome it with open arms but in some sort of moderation. I do not agree with FINA’s latest ruling right before World Champ Trials to allow any and all suits…including the ones that just weeks prior they had banned. I think there needs to be a set rule and we need to stick to this rule no matter how much some company complains.

    Furthermore, the company that sponsors me and my team TYR has filed a lawsuit against FINA because they believe as well as I that there should be separate body that reviews suits and tests them to decide what is legal and what is not. The international swimming community is a very tight nit place and it does not look good when people who are on the FINA board who had a say in what suits are approved and not-approved are also on the payrolls of some of these big name suit manufactures.

    Swimming does need to move forward, just as baseball developed aluminum bats, or cycling started using carbon fiber frames and wheels, or tennis developed new rackets, or golf has a new club come out every day. The suits WILL NOT be banned all together…they have been around since 2000 and it is just not going to happen. So we need to not look into the past but look into the future and say what can we do to regulate the introduction of technology…keep the corked bats out of play, as it were.

    Last point…with USA Swimming’s ruling to ban these high tech suits for anyone under the age 15 there really should not be a huge price issue, almost every high school and club team in the country is sponsored by one of the suit manufacturers and they should have no problem asking their rep for suit at at least a large discount and even free. TYR as a company has treated me VERY well and I personally have not paid for a suit from them for over 2 years, receiving 2 or 3 suits a year.

  19. I dont think that price is ridiculous at all for a good suit… provided you’re a good swimmer. If a kid wants it and works to earn the money to get it, then great, but I dont think parents should fork out that kind of money unless the kid is good enough to get a swimming scholarship to make it worthwhile. If lil’ Jimmy doesn’t swim fast enough to win anyway then there’s no point.

  20. Why do the suits only last 5 swims?? Like, DUH! Why do tennis rackets cost $280? Why does a golf driver go for $1500? Because SPEEDO has spent a lot of R&D money figuring out how to soak money from parents only too willing to see their own self-worth reflected in the money they throw at (and away on) their kids.

  21. Who cares? Sure, win your little trophy at the local swim meet with your $500 swimsuit. Once you get to the upper echelons of competition, you won’t stand a chance against the ultra-elite of the sport. If you are dreaming of being the next Michael Phelps, your bubble will be popped sooner or later. Only a handful make it to the top. You and thousands of others can spend all the money you want. All you will be left with is a bunch of 3rd place ribbons and maybe a 1st place or 2nd place medal from meaningless swim meets for your parents to proudly display in the family room.

  22. I have been waiting for someone to show up at a summer league meet with a tech suit and I guess that has happened…These meets are NOT an olympic qualifying meets or a meet attended by college coaches that are recruiting . A time is a time is a time. The suits are for older athletes that swim at a high level like nationals or NcAA’s, not for a summer league meet. 500 dollar suits were not meant for 14 year olds that want an AAAA time.We are not talking Jr Nationals here..
    Let me ask a question..what is more impressive, a kid that can break a record in an older suit or one that can break a record by 2 seconds in a LZR or Jaked or Arena..Give me a break..And I will tell you something else, college coaches know and ask about suits and they dont like them any better then most of us.
    If your kid is a hard worker, puts in the hours in the pool..good for him. He should be applauded, swimming is a great sport with much to offer..If they are a high level age grouper, tell them to save the tech suit for Jr Nats or a fastsectional meet..
    Summer league is fun..and parents need to excerse a little commen sense and set a good example for their kids,
    I would love to see NVSL, CSL, MCSL and all the others ban the suits..save them for the big meets..as I said, I have yet to see a college coach recruiting at a summer league meet

  23. There are examples of where eqipment that makes you faster is banned from competition because of cost. The best I can think of are the slidign riggers in rowing. They have a clear advantage, because moving the riggers instead of the rower means you have to move less mass around, and you reduce hydrodynamic drag from the stamping motion of the shell due to the shifting mass. I tried one of these contraptions at an exhibition, and they really work. Good for maybe a second on a 2000m race. FISA (the world rowing federation) banned those very expensive movable outriggers in the eighties, because of pressure from the USSR and similar countries who just didn’t or could’t want to keep up with that aspect of the arms race. I presume one could do domething similar with these swimsuits – limit how much of the surface of a swimmer may be covered by a suit.

  24. First of all. Coaches Long Course Meet for those that don’t know is the top eight in the montgomery County Swim League. Montgomery Country has many swimmers from PVS which is one of the if not the most competitive swim league in the country. This is not just any summer meet. Since these times are in a longcourse pool they can be used to QUALIFY for such meets as junior nationals and bigger meets. These kids wearing the LZRs and Blue 70s are good enough to wear them. These suits give them an edge on times and competition and they MOST CERTAINLY help swimmers. The body stays streamlined even when tired and the suits are so tight that they keep the muscles from vibrating which makes you more tired. These suits also reduce drag dramatically. The kids swimming in this meet have junior national, NATIONAL, and OLYMPIC TRIALS cuts. These are not just some summer leage kids racing eachtother. these are the best of the best some of whom compare to olympic athletes. Most of these swimmer’s got their suits at reduced prices because they are so good that at Junior nationals etc. they are given suits. SO.. BEFORE you go off on a rant about how mommies are spoiling these kids know who these kids are.

  25. For everyone who isn’t clear on why these suits only last 5 or so swims…Its not that the suit is worthless after a few swims…you can still wear them and they are still a lot faster than wearing a speedo but the manufactures of the suits (suits with permeable fabric like the TYR Trcer light and the FS Pro, not neoprene suits like the Blue Seventy Jaked and Arena X-Glide) have developed a water repellent coating that is applied to the suits which can reduce the absorption of water to as little as .05%. But the downside is that this coating wears off after so many uses. The next time any of you get a chance to see a permeable suit that hasn’t been worn stretch the fabric out over your hand and drop a few drops of water on it and you will see what I mean. As this coating wears off the suits absorb more water and are not SLOW by any means but are not as good as a brand new one.

  26. Thanks for the comment, but this story was written and reported by Ishita within the past two weeks. It has not been printed previously.

  27. Uhh, as far as I know their is only one olympic athlete that was swimming summer league in the area and that was Kate Ziegler who I never saw sporting a tech suit . Yes their are MANY kids in the area that have a jr or nat or ot cut and and at a USS meet , given todays climate it is understandable that they want to where a tech suit but long course or not, the elite of the elite or not..the coaches lc meet is still a summer league meet and has to be observed and approved to be sanctioned.it is not a us meet or a pvs meet..the kids represent their summer league teams correct?

    Oh and as far as the kids “being the best of the best, some of whom compare to Olympic athletes”..
    At this meet..are you kidding me? Take a look at the times then take a look at WCT results. These fine athletes have a LONG way to go and best of luck to them. I just hope overzealous parents can still help them keep their perspective .

    On a sidenote, a quick glimpse of the times this year showed several jr cuts being made by kids that undoubtedly all ready had them and NO wct cuts or open cuts or 2008 ot cuts . And congratulations to anyone that broke a record wearing a tech suit at a summer league meet.

  28. Are you people nuts? Ranting about kids wearing expensive suits doesn’t matter – its the talent ant training pure and simple, not the suit. Any parent who thinks that “we didn’t buy him a suit to be the reason why he didn’t achieve something.” needs their head examed! This is why I hate Washington DC, overacheiving is a way of life at any cost. I have lived in 8 states across this land and never have I seen such a group of parents in this town who thinks little Johnny and Suzy are going to be the next great sports person. Get a life and love you kids unconditionally and let them have some screw-ups.

    Steve M has it right – a little adversity makes the person better, not a $500 suit!

  29. So I assume that the conversation between parent and child goes something like this:
    “Son, what do you want for Christmas”?
    “How about a $500 swim suit? Then I will be able to get good times without having to practice very hard. I will even be able to beat some kids talented than I am and who work harder.”
    “Son, I am so proud of you. You have finally figured out why Mother and I have wanted you to play sports.”

    Needless to say, many of the parents quoted in this article have no clue. Any parent who would let his or her kid wear a high-tech swim suit in a summer league competition should be made to feel very embarassed. Rather than condoning or even supporting this, they should act like parents and teach their kids that doing whatever is necessary to win is not what sports — or life — should be about.

    Same goes for the coaches who are quoted. The excuse that “everybody else wears them so our swimmers would be at a disadvantage” rings awfully hollow. I am guessing that if Curle-Burke and RMSC, which are two of the top clubs in the nation, took a stand, that would make a difference. Could it be that these coaches actually like the suits because (1) they do make their swimmers post better times, and (2) their clubs have the means — financial and otherwise — to get them?

    Parents need to think more carefully about the reasons why they have their kids swim or play other sports. For myself, it is to teach them valuable life lessons and to develop a habit of exercise and living heathfully while having fun. I certainly don’t see it as a way to teach my kids that cheating — in spirit if not in fact — pays.

  30. To Old School Fan – Unfortunately, you are incorrect. Coaches Long Course, while run as a summer league meet, IS an observed meet and the times DO count for US swimming. Most of the 15-18 yr olds wearing technical suits at that meet had EARNED them by previously going to nationals. This meet is the summer league equivalent of Metros or Virginia AAA High School championship meets – and the kids respond as such. Why should they not take advantage of the opportunity to swim fast? The meet comes at the perfect time, many are in the midst of a taper, just before qualifying period ends for US Open and Jr. Nationals. While my teenager was wearing a technical suit, I can tell you that I did not go out and buy it – it was earned through years of hard work.

  31. Jed, comparing tennis rackets and outfits to tech suits is absurd. I don’t actually know anything about tennis scoring, but unless a more expensive racket automatically scores you an extra point or two in a match, there is no comparision. These suits quite literally take seconds off of a race. Paul Biedermann, who just broke Ian Thorpe’s 400 free record, openly acknowledged it was his suit. As for swimming in cut-off shorts… depsite all his training and athleticism, Michael Phelps would lose against others wearing tech suits if he did that.

    I too, however, laughed out loud while reading this article. Mainly at the statement from one of the swimmers interviewed: “I didn’t go any faster, but you feel faster, though… the suits are a lot more mental than physical, but it was kind of crazy how big of a difference it made.” Seriously? If you didn’t go any faster, it didn’t make a difference! Good job, you (or your parents) just spent $500 so you could FEEL fast… but not actually GO fast. They do feel amazing, but that’s not really the point, is it? The point is to swim faster. And the fact that a kid could put on of those on and not drop time is proof that they are not made for just any age group swimmer, but swimmers at a certain level of training and with the right body composition, combined with a proper taper.

    At least, this will all be over in 2010…

  32. Swimsuit ban & cyborg sport | Speedo LZR questions

    – How feels it to wear a ‘Speedo LZR Racer Elite’ full body suit?

    I read that it was extremely tight and complicated to put on. Is it different from a zentai or ordinary women’s tights? Or feels it just like a regular swimsuit that was 2 sizes too small?

    On YouTube is a video “Speedo LZR Racer How To Put On” and another clip “Zwempak passen” where someone accidentally ripped the upper leg:


    – I read that the suits deteriorate after only few (4 to 7?) uses. What happens to them?

    Does only the water repelling nano coating rub off or wash out, or is the material like balloon latex that in strongly stretched state rapidly looses its tension (which is claimed to be needed to support muscles?) and decomposes thousands times faster by contact with sweat and ozone by the extreme strain? Has here anybody experience with these suits?

    – swimsuit ban by FINA

    High tech swimsuits are history now after FINA has banned their competition use.

    I see this with mixed emotions. On the one hand I regret this, because these skin tight futuristic suits looked awesome and were impressive engineer work, but on the other hand I can understand that these shortlived and expensive garments made many people angry due to many advanced swimmers and particularly kids in swim sport wanted them to (although often only visually) compete with the pro’s (like with the infamous brand sneaker madness) but either could not afford at all the 550$ to 800$ expensive LZR Racer suit or only wear a used and worn out specimen until it became so loose that it filled with water and decelerated by causing more drag than ordinary swim pants. The initial fullsuit had definitely a gorgeous superhero appeal, but it was certainly also an awful ripoff regarding the price and how short they lasted.

    Artists finally made an outdoor sculpture of the banned LZR suits.

    Amazing Summer Pavilion Made from 200 Upcycled Speedo Swimsuits:

    But the “techno doping” complaint that adding high tech makes sport unfair is absurd. Sport is not fair and never was; the phantasm that else everyone has the same chance to win is pointless. E.g. a guy like Michael Phelps has huge feet and a huge chest etc. by his genes that makes him faster than others, which can not be compensated by training but would rather need a genetical upgrade or surgery for other swimmers to compete with. Nor is professional sports healthy – eventually in fact it kills athletes by forced bodily overload, which is ethically not that different from pharmaceutical doping; after end of career many professional athletes even start to consume hard psychoactive drugs (cocaine, speed etc.) to fake the “winners high” their brain got addicted to, which reveals a disgusting cynicism in the sports club slogan “Winners take no drugs”.

    Technology in sports is no evil. Perverse is only when a company monopolizes by patents a technology (may it be a swimsuit, racing car or doping drug) necessary to win, and the way the entire thing is embedded into capitalism and suggests by ads that money can buy everything.

    We need cyborg sports…

    But we are living in an age of mind and technology where it is absurd to condemn and outlaw technological improvements and request that solely natural muscles should make winners. Stop watches are a disease of mankind that lead to tailorism and sweatshop piecework, thus creative problem solving should rather be honoured in sports now than the banal counting of milliseconds.

    So it is time to create an alternative kind of cyborg olympic games that much like Paralympics applies a different set of rules allowing body-attached devices. But it should be a celebration of bionic optimization and energy efficiency, not a machismo contest boasting “bigger is better”. So not only grossly unhealthy or dangerous things but also devices those pollute environment (e.g. any combustion engines or pyrotechnical gadgets) should be outlawed. Also the use of patented gear (especially when made for the sport) should be banned to prevent monopolies. Like in car racing there should be several formulas with different rules.

    E.g. in swimming with bionic devices there could be a formula where legal swimming aids can weight maximum 2kg in total and may include a small amount of stored energy (e.g. a weak rechargeable battery or pneumatic cylinder) to drive you forward. But the exact design should be restricted very little and so allow creative mechanical solutions like fins or fishtails or tiny propellers, so long it becomes no boat that glides over the water (which could be another formula).

    In running and jumping disciplines devices like the spring walker and mechanical exoskelettons could be used. Also here weight, size and stored additional energy should be restricted by rules.

    The bionic sports championship should not be intended to replace given sports but create a modern alternative. Whether this may make conventional sports die out by lack of interest only the future will tell.

    Let’s stay on the air…

    Aerial – a sincerely confessed plastic-shamen

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