‘Floaties’ make a mockery of elite swimming
I call them “floaties” - swimsuits that float. Just watch all the torpedoes fly on top of the water in Rome. Today’s elite swimmer makes the original Thorpedo – Ian Thorpe – look like a slowcoach.
The deluge of world records this week at the FINA World Championships is nothing but a farce.
Swimming’s governing body, FINA, has made a serious blunder which has triggered the ridiculous number of world marks.
The polyurethane swimsuit has been the culprit. The high-tech suit compresses the body which reduces drag. It also traps air inside and therefore creates artificial buoyancy.
In other words, the souped-up athlete is a flying ``floatie’’ with a booming kick.
The swimmers meet less resistance in the water and they virtually “surf” on top of the water.
The tumble of world marks was inevitable. Take nothing away from Aussie breaststroker Brenton Rickard, who spent 10 years overcoming technical hiccups to perfect his stroke and beef up his body.
Rickard’s hard yakka earned him a world record in the 100m breaststroke, the first man to crack the 59-second barrier. Breaststroke is the slowest stroke because all arm and leg movements are underwater, which creates more drag.
During the hype of Rome’s farcical swim meet, FINA threw a curve ball and caused a giant ripple. More like a tsunami.
FINA has now banned the polyurethane suits – ‘‘floaties’’ – from elite competition in 2010. The ban is six months too late.
FINA’s backflip on its swimwear policy shows how much the sport’s hierarchy is struggling to digest the latest technology and science.
It now means elite swimming has a set of world records that can’t be touched for some time. It could take up to five years for athletes to learn how to chase the times, without polyurethane driving them “over the pool”.
US Olympic great Michael Phelps has threatened to boycott future competitions. Many swimmers are fuming in the background, as they have not swum in polyurethane long enough to reduce their times and score world marks in Rome.
With new swimsuit restrictions, we will see a return to models dating back to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
A FINA technical committee will decide the type of “textile fabrics” used for future suits. Men will wear shorts to the knees and women will wear suits that don’t extend past the neck, shoulder or knees.
The new ruling means it is likely we won’t see a bunch of world records smashed at the 2012 London Olympics.
The sport has reverted to focus on the swimmer’s goal – working through a giant mass of water at great speed, relying on technique, feeling, strength and stamina.
Thorpedo’s gone … our current torpedoes are going … and our future belongs to athletes who embrace the Olympic ideal - “swifter, higher and stronger”.
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