Amazing how the world’s fastest swimmers have breathed new life into the sport— thanks to the innovative swimsuit designed to reduce drag from a swimmers body under water, the Speedo LZR. Within months of its release, it has been worn by 36 of 40 swimmers who have broken world records. Now, swim coaches are strongly advising their swimmers to wear the Speedo LZR to make the pool an even playing field against any swimmer with a competitive advantage by wearing the suit. This is an interesting proposition to me for two reasons:
- The Speedo LZR is the next step in swim suit/gear innovations, as company’s understand the properties of humans moving in water and what the needs and demands of swimmers are. For this reason, it is only inevitable that more advanced products will sprout up from sponsoring company’s providing what their target demographic will need to succeed. Over the past 30 years, swimmers have eschewed wearing baggy swim trunks to competitive meets and opt to wear tight fitting Speedo swimsuits. Over the past 10-20 years, swimmers started to don a latex swim cap and googles to reduce water drag between a swimmers body in the water and make it more comfortable for them to see under water. Drag is the term swimming uses to express build up of water weight on a swimmers body creates excess resistance by weighing the swimmers body down under the water and in turn reducing a swimmers velocity. Nowadays, swimming companies are launching lengthy campaigns to make sure a swimmer has as little drag as possible. However, it wasn’t always done this way. Looking at photos of Mark Spitz in the 1972 Olympics you’ll see him step up to the starting block proudly clad in his Speedo, his face donning his signature “Stash”, bushy hair, and oh yeah — no swim cap or, even….googles. How far swimming apparel has come today…
- It also sparks an issue of how some athletes are genetically built to win with physiological attributes that make them perform at their sports optimal level. Athletes such as Michael Phelps in swimming, and Lance Armstrong in cycling have in turn raised the standard of excellence in their sports. Perhaps the Speedo swimming suit serves as the best equalizer the sport has nowadays to keep everyone performing at their best, even if they weren’t born with it.
US swim coach Mark Schbert was quoted in this Huffington Post article, “I would strongly advise (all swimmers) to wear the suit at trials, or they may end up at home watching on NBC,” Coach Schubert said. “Do you go for the money or for the gold? These athletes have been dreaming about winning an Olympic medal since they were eight or 10 years old and nobody can afford to give up two percent.”
I find this article very interesting from a marketing standpoint; the Speedo LZR swimsuit was obviously launched with a precisely targeted campaign timed with Michael Phelps pursuit of breaking Mark Spitz’s Olympic record of 8 gold medals at the 2008 Games. A record which has stood in tact for 36 years. All the bruhaha around the LZR swimsuit and Michael Phelps pursuit of gold is exactly what the sport of swimming needed to inspire Michael’s competitors (which was everyone in the water with him) as well as all Olympians female and male to wear the suit.
The Huffinton Post article says swimmers are finicky when it comes to wearing a suit that will give them a faster time, especially if they wear a suit that they are not bound to wear through their sponsorship deal. In sports, it’s all or nothing. It’s not a marriage of compromise with your swimsuit endorser. If they don’t win, they’re not as marketable for endorsements. However, if they lost while wearing the Speedo LZR then at least they won’t have anything in the back of their heads telling them they could have done anything differently besides give their race their all. I’m looking forward to see what’s next in swimsuit innovations.
Without dominant sports figures to breathe pizzazz into a sport whether it’s from going after a herculean task with gusto and making it happen like Michael Phelp’s 8 gold record to coming in “clutch” for your team like Jason Lezak’s last leg swim in the Men’s 400 freestyle relay that these swimming apparel innovations are less likely to continue to build momentum. The more successful swimmers become the spotlight of attention will continue to grow from fans, University swim programs and all swimmers alike. As Inside Bay Area reports that Bay Area swimming pools have already seen an increase of attendance. Role models like Phelps and top notch swim programs will continue to train the next generation of swimmers to hone their craft and dream of gold at the Olympics. This increased interest will definitely make it easier for swimming companies such as Speedo, TYR and even Nike to fund projects to keep the spotlight shining brighter on swimming with new advancements.
I feel like it’s also important to note that these Olympians are the BEST, because they’ve worked for their success. They’ve honed their craft for 15 hours a day swimming and lifting and doing everything it takes to succeed. The swimsuits are only there for SUPPORT….literally.