While Usain Bolt was running the 100 metres and becoming the icon of Beijing 2008, something just as remarkable was happening in the Olympic swimming pool.
Speedo’s “LZR Racer” swimsuits, specially crafted performance wetsuits, helped smash 23 swimming world records. Of all medalists in the pool, 94% wore the suit. As a result, behind Bolt the biggest name in sport after Beijing was in fact a swimming costume!
As other manufacturers fought to catch up, 225 world records were set in about two years, but was the wave of incredible performances down to the swimmers or the technology?
“It took something away from the swimming,” says Ellen Gandy, who won silver in the 200m butterfly for Great Britain at the 2011 World Championships. “Someone would break a world record and the reaction was just like ‘Oh, yeah.’ It wasn’t special like it should have been.”
Fina, swimming’s governing body, knew something had to be done, and banned the ‘supersuits’ in January 2010. But with their new, and legal suit, the “Fastskin3”, Speedo thinks the London Olympic Aquatic Centre will see records tumble.
“We believe we’ve created the opportunity for athletes to really reach their maximum potential,” said Dr Tom Waller, head of Speedo’s Aqualab development laboratory. “Taken together this is the fastest stuff we’ve ever created.”
Combining futuristic-looking, aerodynamic goggles, and sculpted caps, trunks and swimsuits that fit the contours of Olympic-level swimmers, Speedo is confident they’ve raised the bar again. While the individual components cannot compete with the full-length LZR Racer suit, together they will help some swimmers go faster than anyone ever has done in their disciplines.
“It makes me feel completely at one with the water,” said 16-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps. “I feel comfortable and I feel good knowing I am wearing the fastest elements.”
But these aren’t just suits for the world’s absolute elite swimmers. If you see Fastskin3 shooting past you at your local pool, it’s not necessarily Phelps or British swimming star Rebecca Adlington.
You can buy a Fastskin3 suit from £85-£330, while caps cost £25 and the goggles start at £40. They are available for boys and girls as well men and women.
But make no mistake, the Fastskin3 range is for performance, and while attention has been paid to looks and a variety of fits, they are tricky to get into and their compression fit is hardly as comfortable as a bikini or normal suit.
While the consensus is that swimmers wearing the latest kit will once again rise to the top this summer, there are medal hopefuls out there flying the flag for the old school.