Bodysuits out at U.S. swim trials

Vote bans speedy gear, but use in Sydney OK

June 23, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

American Tom Malchow and Dutchwoman Inge de Bruijn cited the technology when they posted world records recently. When Russian Alexander Popov improved the world record in the 50-meter freestyle, he used a more traditional look, and so will everyone who competes at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

Full-length bodysuits are the issue, and yesterday USA Swimming's board of directors voted 16-3 to ban them during its eight days of Olympic qualifying in August. The qualifiers in Indianapolis, however, will be able to use them a month later at the Games in Sydney, Australia.

FINA, the world governing body for swimming, has approved the use of the suits, with Speedo carving out a large niche in the market. Administrators from USA Swimming, the national governing body, wanted to ban them at the trials, citing the issue of access.

Chuck Wielgus, USA Swimming's executive director, said that FINA's ruling was "premised on the availability of the suit to all competitors. The board had a real concern that the suit would not be readily available to all trials swimmers in a reasonable amount of time prior to the event."

Speedo and other manufacturers had indicated that bodysuits would be widely available by June 14, but a more likely time frame was Aug. 1, just eight days before the start of the trials. There was also concern that few have been laser-fitted, as world-record setters like Lenny Krayzelburg have.

"In the discussion, representatives of Speedo said the suits were not fully available in other nations, but that they were still allowed in their trials," said Murray Stephens, the North Baltimore Aquatic Club coach who is on USA Swimming's board of directors. "That's not the way we do things in the U.S. Everyone should have a fair period of time in which to experiment and utilize the suits before the trials."

International rules prohibit any suit that aids a swimmer's speed, endurance or buoyancy, while Speedo claims that the fabric in its "Fastskin" model reduces drag by 3 percent. Speedo alone outfitted more than 150 competitors with full-length bodysuits at the Australian trials.

Michael Phelps, the 14-year-old phenom from the NBAC, has experimented with several styles of full-length bodysuits. The ones he received "off the rack," so to speak, inhibited his arm movement, and he has tried a half-length suit.

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