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USA Swimming moves forward on Youth Ban of High-Tech Suits

by ZwemZa on May 14th, 2018

Team USA’s Missy Franklin competes in the second Semifinal of the Women’s 200m Backstroke on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

On Saturday, the board of USA Swimming moved forward a plan to ban tech swimming suits for juniors younger than 13. The proposal will now go to a vote by the organization’s house of delegates in September. The suits are believed to give swimmers a significant edge over opponents wearing lower-tech clothing, but put an extra financial pressure on parents—they retail from at least $100, and often much more.

High-tech suits first appeared a decade ago. Their construction, including bonded seams and a water repellant coating, reduces the hydrodynamic drag on a swimmer. And less drag means faster lap times.

Speedo’s LZR Racer, developed with the help of NASA, was launched in 2008 ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games. At the time, Speedo marketed the suit as “the world’s fastest swimsuit.” During the world swimming championships in Rome the following summer, swimmers wearing the suits set 43 new world records. FINA, the sports governing body quickly jumped in to impose restrictions that limited suit size and materials, but the suits never truly went away. Eight years after the suits were first introduced, the Fastskin LZR Racer X, a derivative of Speedo’s original design, was worn by several members of Team USA at Rio 2016—other American swimmers wore similarly high-tech suits. Team USA dominated, with 16 gold medals and 33 medals in total.

When young swimmers, and their parents, see their idols in high-tech suits, there is significant pressure to copy the stars. “Right now the high-tech suits in age-group swimming are a parental arms race,” said Matt Farrell, the chief marketing officer of U.S.A. Swimming, the sport’s governing body, in an interview with the New York Times last week.

Tom Taylor | Sports Techie


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