The science of swimsuits.

Although this topic is a little bit old now, it contains plenty of science, and I think is still worthy of a post.

So what was all the fuss about?

In February 2008 Speedo launched its new LZR racer suit. It was made from polyurethane and elastane-nylon.  It claimed to allow better oxygen flow to the muscles, compress swimmers bodies and hold them in a better position in the water, reduce drag, repel water and increase flexibility.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics proved to be an unprecedented success for the LZR Racer, with 94% of all swimming races won in the suit. 89% of all medals won at the Beijing Olympics were won by swimmers wearing the suit. In total 23 out of the 25 world records broken, were achieved by swimmers competing in the LZR suit As of 24 August 2009, 93 world records had been broken by swimmers wearing a LZR Racer, and 33 of the first 36 Olympic medals have been won wearing it. Every winner in every men’s event in the Beijing Olympics was wearing this swimsuit.

Again, what was the problem?

Well, of course there were claims that some athletes had an unfair advantage, as not all athletes would be able to wear the Speedo suit.  A number of athletes had contractual agreements with other manufacturers.  (It wasn’t long before these other companies also made a suit equivalent to the LZR racer).

So what happened?

As of the beginning of 2010, FINA banned the LZR suit as well as were all other body length suits and suits containing zips.  The new rules only allow men to wear suits from knee to waist, while women are only allowed to wear suits that cover from shoulder to knee.  The allowed suits must also be made from a ‘woven material’.

So what does that mean now?

If you ever watch any swimming, you will notice that not a lot of records have been broken. Of course, nearly all of the records have been set by athletes wearing the Speedo suit (or equivalent), so now that they are banned, it is extremely hard for these records to be broken…

Related articles:

Can a swimsuit be too good?

The science behind the swimsuit war.

Can a swimsuit make you swim faster?


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