Friday, July 31, 2009

Swimming in the News... Thank the Suits.

Would we really get this much press without the suit controversy? Once again, there is just so much great stuff out there. The world championships are fanning the flames on every side of the suit argument and we are getting an unprecedented amount of coverage for our sport. I even got to see Ricky Berens' bare butt on my 52 inch hi-def screen last night. I was horribly uncomfortable with how exciting that was for me.

As usual, Tony Austin at SCAQ is on top of it all on the pro-suit side. I am sure that most readers realize that even though FINA seems to have made their final decisions, there are still a lot of decisions to be made. More problems will come up. We may not know for years if the prevailing purist viewpoint will prove to be best for the sport. Rowdy Gaines seems to think that it will hurt us in the long run. Matt Lauer compares it all to the imaginary scenario of letting Major League Baseball use aluminum bats for a year and then taking them away.

One of my swim team parents is a dedicated triathlete who had to ask why Phelps would bring a “knife to a gunfight” in the 200 freestyle. This dad, Chris, will occasionally send me a link or two that relate to the things we chat about. Last summer, he sent me the SI archive article from 1972 about the Belgrade. He recently tipped me off to a new resource: The Science of Sport. I have become a regular reader as of about a week ago. With the world meet going on they have made a few excellent posts about swimming and suits. The fascinating thing for me is that the site attracts a lot of very knowledgeable comments from athletes in other similar sports, several of which have gone through similar crises.

Their most recent article highlights two different perspectives on the suit wars. They have actually taken a very intelligent “welcome to progress” comment from a reader (that alludes to an Einstein quote: “you can’t solve problems at the same level that you created them.”) and contrasted it against John Leonard’s recent ASCA blast email for coaches to pass on to swim parents; “What’s the Big Deal About Swimsuits?” while adding running commentary throughout. Some of the comments are just as fascinating as the work of the authors, and swimmers need to hear what other sports have to say. On the left side of their site, they have a link to all of their past swimming articles. They have done excellent work and it is worth reading.

I have cut and pasted one of the most intriguing comments from their site below. Please take note of who posted it, and let me know what you think in the comments section.

Kelvin Koch said...
There is a lot more to this than what is going on in Rome. This has been brewing for over 25 years and many of the coaches and athletes complaining now, did not complain one bit when the advantage over their predecessors was theirs during the past two decades. Now we will have rules where men will be competing in suits that have not been used in elite competition on a regular basis in over 15 years. 25 years with the drag reducing fabrics of pre-2008 suits that are being removed as well.

As for the cost issue: The "paper suits" that started this in the mid-'80's cost over $150 for the girls. And they would last one session of a meet. There would be no "jammers" without the introduction of the "paper suit". A simple brief couldn't do much, drop the material down the leg to reduce drag and add compression where it could really matter and we had $125 suits for guys that lasted one meet session.

As a company we will provide whatever suits the rules require. I just don't think this has been thought out enough by anybody to avoid a long list of court battles that are about to happen. Now that men and women will be told they have to compete at a distinct handicap to those who preceded them over the past 2 decades there will be lawsuits over this issue. Their funding ultimately comes from world rankings and records. No one in their right mind can say that those who set records from at least 1992 - 2007 did not have an advantage over what is about to happen, now this next generation is being punished for what went on long before this week. Ultimately the courts will decide what is "fair" for these athletes in light of full disclosure of this issue...and it's not good for the sport to have that happen.

As a manufacturer I can see a lot of changes in this rule forcing all of us to have to scramble for "availability" due to last minute changes in rules for many seasons to come.

Kelvin Koch
Rocket Science Sports - Swimming

Keep tuning in true believers! The clean up is going to be just as fun as making the mess!

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