The competitive swimming world is debating the latest bodysuit, released by Speedo , and designed in part by a professor of exercise physiology at Iowa State University. Rick Sharp helped construct the new LZR Racer Bodysuit and was on hand for the unveiling of the suit in New York City last month.
Since then, 11 world records have been set by swimmers wearing the LZR. With the Beijing Olympics looming this summer, some swimmers are upset that they may not be able to wear the suit.
Sharp says many swimmers have a contract with a manufacturer that won’t allow them to wear a suit designed by another company. The swimming world’s governing body, known as FINA, approved the suit last year but has called for a meeting on the matter next month. Sharp says the secret behind the LZR’s success is a new fabric which blends nylon and several other flexible materials to reduce water resistance.
“It’s good and stretchy, and it acts kind of like a second skin in the sense that it really does fit well to the body,” Sharp said. Swimming officials are concerned about the growing division in the sport over the $550 suit. Sharp says the debate over technology’s role in sports is nothing new.
“Technology advancements are part of sport and it’s part of what gets athletes better over time,” Sharp told Radio Iowa. “It’s a natural evolution of sport I think.” Some opponents of the LZR suit question it’s buoyancy, saying it may illegally offer the swimmer a floatation effect. Sharp calls those complaints “sour grapes.”
“Our data on this suit showed no increase in buoyancy at all and that was submitted to FINA and FINA approved the fact that it did not contribute to added buoyancy,” Sharp said. The LZR suit weighs 70 percent less than other bodysuits and retains almost no water. Sharp says it needs just 45 minutes to dry out after being in the water for one hour.