A new swimsuit, designed in part by a professor at Iowa State University, is getting credit for helping several swimmers break world records this year.
Rick Sharp, a professor of exercise physiology, is part of the design team for Speedo’s Fastskin FS-Pro suit. “It’s just a really thin fabric, in the sense that it’s mass is really low,” Sharp says, “so it’s not as thick, I guess you could say. It feels pretty slippery to the touch.”
The full body suit features a water-repellent fabric made from a combination of spandex and nylon yarn. It was worn by Kate Ziegler this summer when she shattered one of swimming’s oldest records, the 1,500-meter freestyle. “She thinks that the suit is at least part of the explanation,” Sharp says.
Ziegler broke the record, set in 1988 by Janet Evans, by almost 10 seconds. The suit was released six months ago, after Sharp spent nearly two years fine-tuning the design. Sharp says the design involved a lot of research into how tight the suit could be made, without restricting motion or breathing. The suit is expected to be a must have for all swimmers in next year’s Beijing Olympics.
The fabric could help athletes in other sports. “Low drag fabrics and coming up with things like that is certainly of vital importance in swimming,” Sharp says, “because there’s so much water resistance, compared to wind resistance for example. But I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t have applications in track and cycling.”
Sharp says the suit weighs 70 percent less than other swimsuits and retains almost no water. It needs just 45 minutes to dry out after being in the water for one hour. The list price for the Fastskin FS-Pro suit is $340 on Speedo’s website .