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The big news in swimming is that the buoyant polyurethane suits that have made a mockery of world records for the past 17 months — first Speedo’s LZR, and more recently the Jaked suit — have finally been banned by international authorities, effective starting in 2010. To put this in context:
In the Olympic individual events, only four world records remain from the pre-2008, pre-polyurethane era: the men’s 400- [UPDATE: uh, scratch that: Ian Thorpe’s record just went down] and 1,500-meter freestyles, and the women’s 100 breaststroke [that one’s gone too] and 100 butterfly [and so’s that one].
This is the right decision, and a big relief for anyone who wants the competition to be among athletes rather than the R&D arms of big companies.
[T]hey enabled swimmers without an ideal physique or impeccable conditioning to be more competitive. Squeezed into the corset-like suit, a muscled and stocky body is as streamlined as a long and lean one; a soft abdomen as effective as six-pack abs. “The thing that’s really hurt more than anything else is the whole suit situation has devalued athleticism,” [U.S. swim coach Dave] Salo said. “A lot of kids who aren’t in very good shape can put on one of these suits and be streamlined like seals.”
Of course, that doesn’t prevent some whining from athletes who like the suits:
“Basically, when we roll back, racers are going to hurt a lot more than they hurt currently, which is not something I’m looking forward to,” [U.S. swimmer Matt] Grevers said.
The big question now: what to do about the world records that have been set over the pact few years. After all, it could take a long time to eradicate them with normal suits.