LZR Racer

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The LZR Racer Suit unveiling at a press conference in New York City in February 2008.

The LZR Racer Suit (pronounced as 'laser') is a line of high-end swimsuits manufactured by Speedo using a high-technology swimwear fabric composed of woven elastane-nylon and polyurethane. The line was launched on 13 February 2008. The technology is patented in Italy, and protected worldwide.[1]

Design and development[edit]

The suit was developed by Mectex, an Italian company, in association with the Australian Institute of Sport, with the help of Speedo's sponsored athletes. NASA's wind tunnel testing facilities[2] and NASA fluid flow analysis software supported the design. The line's cosmetics were designed in collaboration with Comme des Garçons.

Like other suits used for high competition racing, it allows for better oxygen flow to the muscles, and holds the body in a more hydrodynamic position, while repelling water and increasing flexibility.[3] The seams of the suit are ultrasonically welded to further reduce drag. The suits are manufactured at Petratex, a textile factory in Paços de Ferreira, Portugal; the technology is patented in that country.[1] The suit is also 100% chlorine resistant and quick drying. The suit includes patented Core Stabilizer and Internal Compression Panels. Speedo also partnered with ANSYS, one of the world's leading engineering simulation software providers, in creating this suit.

Endorsed for competitive use by FINA prior to the Beijing Olympics,[4] the suit reportedly can lower racing times for a competitor by 1.9 to 2.2 percent.[5] This and other high performance body suits have since been banned from FINA competitions.

Marketing and results[edit]

Michael Phelps of the United States and Eamon Sullivan of Australia at the start of the 4x100 relay event at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Beijing. Both are wearing LZR Racer swimsuits

The line was launched on 13 February 2008, and marketed as "the world's fastest swimsuit."[6] It was the focus of Speedo's campaign for the 2008 Summer Olympics, spearheaded by Michael Phelps of the United States. They created a holographic[clarification needed] video of Michael Phelps wearing the suit which was displayed in London, Sydney, New York, and Tokyo on the day of the suit's release. Michael Phelps exclaimed, "When I hit the water [in the LZR swimsuit], I feel like a rocket." Within a week of its launch, three world records were broken by swimmers wearing the suit.

The Beijing Olympics proved to be an unprecedented success for the LZR Racer, with 94% of all swimming races won in the suit.[7] 98% 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[8] As of 24 August 2009, 93 world records had been broken by swimmers wearing a LZR Racer,[2] and 33 of the first 36 Olympic medals have been won wearing it.[9]

The impressive apparent effects of wearing the suit led one of the coaches of Japan's Olympic swimming team to say "If swimmers don’t wear the LZR Racer, they won’t be able to compete in Beijing Olympics."[10] This created a problem for the Japanese Olympic swimmers, who had exclusive contracts with swimsuit makers Mizuno, Asics, and Descente, preventing them from wearing the Speedo brand suits in the Olympics. However, the Japanese Swimming Federation subsequently decided to allow its athletes to choose their own suits freely.[11]

FINA rule changes[edit]

Following the December 2008 European Short Course Championships in Croatia, where 17 world records fell, it was felt there was a need to modify the rules surrounding swimsuits. The combined effects of the LZR both compressing the body and trapping air for buoyancy led to many competitors who used the LZR wearing two or more suits for an increased effect. This led to some claiming that the LZR was in effect "technological doping."[12] Therese Alshammar from Sweden lost her world record in the 50 meter butterfly because she was wearing two swimsuits. However, all other records set by a swimmer wearing the suit stood as valid.

At its meeting in Dubai in March 2009, FINA stipulated that swimsuits should not cover the neck, must not extend past the shoulders and ankles, and also limit the suits' thickness and buoyancy. In a statement, FINA stated that[12] by avoiding all questions of fabrics, impermeability, and buoyancy, FINA chose to deal with this situation by simply ruling on the lengths of swimsuits.

The LZR Racer and all other Speedo FastSkin Competition Suits were approved. However other suits like the BlueSeventy Nero Comp were banned first and afterwards released.

In an abrupt reversal of opinion, the FINA Congress voted almost unanimously to revert its previous policy and ban all body-length swimsuits.[13] The decision was taken in Rome on 24 July 2009, during the 2009 World Aquatics Championships. The new policy states that men's swimsuits may maximally cover the area from the waist to the knee, and women's counterparts from the shoulder to the knee. They also ruled that the fabric used must be a "textile" or a woven material and that a suit may not have any fastening devices such as a zipper (drawstrings on male jammers are allowed). FINA did not specify what they meant by "textile." The new regulations took effect on 1 January 2010.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Rodie, Janet Bealer (May–June 2008). "Quality Fabric Of The Month". Textile Word. 
  2. ^ a b "Fast Times: Speedo, Like Michael Phelps, Goes For World Domination in an LZR Suit". Wall Street Journal. 14 August 2008. p. A14. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  3. ^ Hogg, Chris (9 June 2008). "Japanese search for new swimsuits". BBC News. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit spawns copycats and controversy, Gizmodo Australia
  5. ^ Brasor, Philip (10 August 2008) "Celebrity rules as the Olympics strays far from its ideal", Japan Times
  6. ^ Engineering the world's fastest swimsuit. Physorg.com. 28 February 2008.
  7. ^ Time's Best Innovations of 2008. Time.com (29 October 2008). Retrieved on 19 May 2014.
  8. ^ PHELPS SECURES HIS PLACE IN THE HISTORY BOOKS AFTER LANDING HIS EIGHTH GOLD MEDAL! Speedo. 17 August 2008
  9. ^ Goodgame, Clayton. (13 August 2008) High-Tech Swimsuits: Winning Medals Too. Time. Retrieved on 19 May 2014.
  10. ^ "No LZR Racer? You're Done. With Malice. 11 June 2008. Accessed 11 August 2008.
  11. ^ "Japanese swimmers given OK to use Speedo LZR Racer." Yahoo! Sports (Associated Press). 10 June 2008. Accessed 11 August 2008.
  12. ^ a b "Fina cracks down on hi-tech suits". BBC Sport. 14 March 2009. Retrieved 15 March 2009. 
  13. ^ FINA Opts to Ban All High-Tech Swimsuits, reachforthewall.com, 24 July 2009
  14. ^ FINA REQUIREMENTS FOR SWIMWEAR APPROVAL (FRSA). (Regulations valid for swimwear to be used from 1 January 2010) as amended with effect from 1 January 2011