Everyone is swimming faster! Michael Phelps still wins.


The Swimming World Championships in Rome have just finished up and Michael Phelps closed it out with a gold medal performance on the American relay team. That left him with a total of five golds and a silver for the competition, not too shabby. But perhaps even more than the continued domination of Phelps, the real story from Rome seems to be the 43 world records set there. Brian Cazeneuve from Sports Illustrated puts in his two cents:

It’s gotta be the suits. What else could explain the absurd number of world records set in Rome? In 2008, a year when the rise of records left people calling for drug inquiries, pool measurements and the return of 1920s swimsuits, there were 102 records set throughout the year. That’s almost one every three days. In Rome, swimmers set new standards 43 times in eight days. FINA, the sport’s international governing body, has said it will adopt new regulations to prohibit some of the materials in the suits of the last two or three years. They will also restrict the length of some of the suits for both men and women. Still, those regulations won’t go into effect until Jan. 1 and even those will be against the objections of many suit manufacturers who want to liquidate their stock of the suits that will soon be illegal. Once that happens, some of these records could stand for some time.

So all these new-fangled swimsuits are going to be made illegal? When I heard the story the first thing that popped into my mind was the sound of those speed skates in Nagano in 1998 and every Olympics since. Called “clap skates” these things broke every record there was to break in speed skating. But they are still legal today.

With the skates in mind as a precedent then, it seems a bit odd to me that the swimsuits should be banned. Further strangeness in this story comes from the fact that all of the records in swimming HAVE ALREADY BEEN BROKEN by them. If the reason for making the suits illegal is to make the times of the swimmers closer to something a normal human should be able to do, than don’t we have to re-swim every event since Beijing? FINA, the governing body of international swimming, needs to get their heads out of the suits and let technology through on this one.

OK, but then what about aluminum bats in Major League baseball? If we should let in the swimsuits, then why shouldn’t we let in the bats? OK, here’s why: The swimsuits have already been used, the records are already broken. With baseball, if they choose to not let those bats in, then fine, that’s up to them. But FINA shouldn’t have gone back on their previous approval. I don’t care too much about what choices a governing body makes in terms of technological advances, so long as they stay consistent. Baseball has, speed skating has, swimming seems to have had a false start.

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