Bathing Suits

Bathing suits
Speedo bathing suits LZR technical bathing suits drag coefficient of bathing suits
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Speedo bathing suits
LZR technical bathing suits

drag coefficient of bathing suits

Athlete's Bathing Suits: Technical Fabrics for That Competitive Edge

The days, athletes wearing a run-of-the-mill Speedo bathing suits in competitive swimming events are pretty much over. Like so many aspects of swimming competitively, bathing suits are now seen as providing an advantage to athletes who often win or lose by hundredths of a second.

Instead of traditional bathing suits, more and more athletes, male and female, are electing to wear full-body bathing suits, like Speedo's LZR Racer. This suit has racked up an impressive string of victories for its wearers, including a staggering 38 world records. Can a swimsuit really account for this? The answer from athletes who wear it is a resounding yes. Read on to find out more.

The Speedo LZR's construction is designed to hold the swimmer's body and muscles in the optimal position for moving through the water. LZR bathing suits feature inflexible material in the abdominal and groin regions that boosts performance by helping to control muscle action. Seamless construction also speeds the swimmer through the water. Since the LZR is welded ultrasonically, there are no lines or ridges to create drag in the water. Also, tight-fitting full body bathing suits like the LZR provide support to the large muscles in the leg, much like the shorts worn by competitive cyclists do. This support reduces fatigue. One swimmer describes the effect of wearing LZR technical bathing suits by saying, "It feels like I'm swimming downhill."

To create the suit, Speedo's designers scanned the bodies of 400 top swimmers and used medical data to ensure that the LZR integrated perfectly with its wearer, like a second highly technical skin. Speedo also consulted experts as NASA regarding the LZR's drag coefficient. NASA's research looked at the surface roughness of 60 different fabrics by using a wind tunnel at low speeds to determine which fabric has the lowest drag. The tests proved that the smoothest fabrics used for bathing suits perform best in competitive sports like swimming. Speedo claims that the LZR has less friction than skin and reduces drag in the water by as much as 24%. Another benefit is improved oxygen intake for the athlete.

Although only time will prove whether bathing suits like the LZR consistently give athletes a competitive edge, right now Speedo claims it improves performance by 4% and reduces drag by 10%. It also doesn't hurt that Michael Phelps, the USA's premier swimmer, wears the Speedo LZR.

Innovative LZR bathing suits have created some controversy in the competitive swimming world. Several coaches and athletes from outside the U.S. have called for it to be banned. An Italian coach has asserted that the LZR is a form of "technological doping." Critics also cite both the suit's $550 price tag and the fact that teams sponsored by Speedo receive them free as drawbacks of the LZR technical bathing suits.

FINA, the governing body of competitive swimming, has OK'd the LZR for the 2008 Olympics, but this has created even more controversy. Some teams find the suit's price tag prohibitive and the German team couldn't wear them even if they were free. Germany has an agreement with Adidas to wear that brand. In another development, Tyr Sport, Inc. has sued Speedo, claiming that Speedo and USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport of swimming in America, have conspired to curtail competition and attract premier athletes away from other sponsors.

In perhaps the ultimate tribute to the LZR, Nike allowed the athletes it sponsored in the 2008 Olympics to wear Speedo LZR bathing suits, since not doing so is perceived as putting an athlete at a marked disadvantage.

Also abandoning his sponsor's bathing suits is a Japanese swimmer who shattered the world record in the 200-meter breaststroke. He was wearing the LZR on a trial basis and now is fully committed to it. On the other side, the technical director of the French swimming team has called for an ethical debate on the issue, even though a French swimmer won a medal wearing an LZR suit. The Australian swimming coach says he has no problem with the suits, and his team members (both current and former) support him.

It remains to be seen whether LZR technical bathing suits will become fixtures on the competitive swimming scene, but at this point it looks as through these high-tech bathing suits will inevitably change the face of this sport in years to come.

drag coefficient of bathing suits
Bathing suits Speedo bathing suits LZR technical bathing suits
drag coefficient of bathing suits