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You may remember the avalanche of world records in the swimming pool last summer in Beijing, thanks to the reduced drag of Speedo’s new LZR suits. (Olympic records fell in all but two events!) The Science of Sport has a very interesting post about how records are continuing to fall this year, thanks to an even newer generation of suits, such as the polyurethane-covered suit worn by Frederick Bosquet to break the 50m freestyle record (see picture):
So good are the new suits, that Bosquet, a man who had never, in 7 years, made an Olympic final, managed to smash 0.34 seconds off the old world record in the shortest event in the pool.
At what point does technology start to overshadow the person vs. person competition that is supposed to be at the heart of sports? It’s not just swimming, either. An increasing number of sports now demand that you invest in everything from one-piece composite hockey sticks to the latest long-range golf clubs if you want to be competitive (or, worse, if you want your 11-year-old kid to be competitive). Ross Tucker of The Science of Sport has a fairly scathing take on the failure of international swimming authorities to crack down on these suits — and I’m inclined to agree.