Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
High-tech swim suits were banned for this year’s Olympic Games, and it showed, with only seven world records broken at the international event.
Among the seven world records broken at the London Aquatic Centre – three by men and four by women swimmers – there was a record to be spared for chest-flexing South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh, who smashed the world 100-metre men’s butterfly mark with a time of 58.46 seconds.
Although his win endured a brief scare when Australian media suggested that van der Burgh had illegally used the dolphin kick technique at the turn (the 50m mark), his record is intact and legitimate in the eyes of the world.
Van der Burgh also broke an Olympic record in the semi-final.
Interestingly, in the Olympic records table, 20 were broken – 15 by women and five by male swimmers – with the contestants seemingly needing that edge that their swim suits with ridges gave them in Beijing 2008.
The decision by the international swimming body (Fina) to ban the suits and replace them with 100 percent textile-produced costumes was met with anger by some swimmers when it was announced in January 2010 that high-tech suits such as the SharkSkin, were no longer permitted.
Since the implementation of the new regulations in January 2010, all costumes have to be submitted for approval to Fina.
Questions have been asked on the necessity of the ban since it’s implementation, especially by Harvard University’s Ichthyology (study of fish) professor George Lauder, who argued that the high-tech suits made no difference.
Graham Hill, Chad le Clos’s coach, said he had no doubt that the swim suits gave swimmers an edge, and said he had no problem with the Fina ban.
He said the ban put the spotlight back on hard work, talent and not technology, but lauded the suits for the appeal they brought to the sport.
“For us coaches, we’d like to see them (swimmers) stand on that (medals) podium and be rewarded for their hard work and talent,” he said.
“The times that were being achieved at the Olympics were very close to the times achieved during the shiny (high-tech) suit phase, so again, it’s helped swimmers work harder to achieve their goals… Those suits helped put swimming on the map; lots of records were broken in a short space of time. It was fantastic, people were talking about swimming, which was good for the sport,” he said.
Hill said although Le Clos used the high-tech suits bet-ween 2008 and 2010, it did not affect him much when he had to use normal swimwear again from 2010.
Lauder argued in a study titled “The hydrodynamic function of shark skin and two biomimetic applications”, that high-tech swimsuits such as the banned Speedo Fastskin FS II, which possessed surface indentations like shark denticles, had no effect in reducing drag, as claimed by the manufacturers of the costume.
In his study, Lauder used real shark skin (samples from a shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks), a silicone riblet material with evenly spaced ridges and a Speedo Fastskin FS II fabric.
“We found no consistent increase in swimming speed with Speedo fabric, a 7.2 percent increase with riblet material, whereas shark skin membranes showed a mean 12.3 percent increase in swimming speed after removing the denticles,” the study reads.
“Our most noteworthy results were that the shark denticles had no beneficial locomotor effect on the moving, rigid shark skin foils, and in fact the unmodified rigid foils swam more slowly than those on which the denticles had been removed for two motion programs,” the study read.
But a local sharks expert, Geremy Cliff, KZN Sharks Board executive officer for research, said the banned suits “increased the swimmer’s buoyancy by just enough to reduce drag or turbulence”, which increased the speed of the swimmer.
“I can see why they’ve done (away with) it, these fancy swim suits are expensive and extremely high-tech. It becomes a case of ‘if you have enough money, you can afford a swim suit which may help you beat the guy next to you, who might even be a better swimmer than you are’,” he said at the start of the Games.
Reflecting on London, he said it would be difficult to highlight the swimming gear as a reason for the shortage in swimming records broken.
“What’s interesting for me, when you look at the amount of records broken by the women versus the men, the women have done so well. Is this because their suits cover more of their body? I don’t know if that’s the reason,” he said.
On Chad le Clos’ gold medal, he said it was “fantastic”, and hoped the 20-year-old would follow up his gold medal with many more.
“Something else that’s significant… We have two swimmers here, Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, who have proved that you can achieve great things being trained from home, without having to go to the USA,” he said.
Hill said the next aim for Le Clos was to claim gold at the World Championships next year, to complete his impressive medal cabinet, which includes gold medals at the Olympics, Commonwealth and Youth Championship games. – Cadet News Agency