Page 1



SPORT DESK (03) 58 203 228; SMS 042 SMS NEWS;



TEO PELLIZZERI teo.pellizzeri@

Australia’s brightest swimming prospects have an unfair advantage against the average competitor, Shepparton Swimming Club coach Willy O’Callaghan said yesterday. O’Callaghan is in Sydney to observe Mooroopna swimmer Elisha Fiddes at the national championships and was dismayed at the unavailability to the

average competitor of the suit being worn by swimmers currently setting world records. The Speedo Fastskin LZR Racer is the piece of equipment causing a worldwide controversy in the pool and is available for pre-order on Speedo’s website for $600. However, delivery is stated as ‘‘on or about July 30’’, making it unavailable to those without the right connections. Swimmers at the national championships are breaking world records in the suit and


Willy O’Callaghan O’Callaghan was unhappy at the divide between haves and have-nots. ‘‘Even if a competitor wants a suit it’s not available,’’ O’Callaghan said.

‘‘The ones being worn currently are promotional and not available to the run-of-themill swimmer. ‘‘They’re only being made available to people who are at the Australian Institute of Sport who have special consideration for the nationals.’’ While the suited

swimmers’ race against the clock has the world captivated, O’Callaghan said it was swimmers without suits who had been forgotten. ‘‘There are other swimmers out there trying to beat those in the suits,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s really quite unfair.

Elisha Fiddes ‘‘If it is the difference between qualifying for a semi or a final why wouldn’t you wear it.’’ However, O’Callaghan was not crediting the suit with being the only reason for world

Technology taints world record feats

Hard work is answer, not outfit THE FOR TOM BIDDINGTON tom.biddington@

So, swimmers are performing well and there is a problem. These elite athletes are dedicating their lives to getting the best out of themselves in a 50 m pool, training up to 13 times a week, so of course they are going to improve and swim faster than ever. The ultimate aim for most athletes is to participate in the Olympic Games — they come around every four years and these swimmers base their whole training around peaking for the trials and then, if they qualify, the Games themselves. So if you are not swimming fast now, these dreams will never be realised, which brings us to the issue of the new Speedo swimsuit. World records are falling all across the planet and apparently this is

because of the new technology and swimsuits, rather than the athletes working harder and smarter than ever and reaching new levels of performance. Which is rubbish. The swimmers doing the work in training are getting the rewards on race day. A swimming costume can’t make 0.8 of a second difference, no matter how good it is, which is how much Stephanie Rice beat the second oldest record in the books on Tuesday night, adding the 200 m individual medley mark to the 400 m individual medley time she set last Saturday. Swimmers will continue to improve and clock personal bests, as they develop physically and train harder — sometimes there will be world records. And there’s one more important thing to remember, a high-tech swimsuit doesn’t actually perform a stroke, only the athlete does.

records falling. ‘‘Obviously Speedo have stuck to the rules in making the suit, so if it’s legal and readily available why not use it,’’ she said. ‘‘I think it’s a generalisation to say that world records are being broken because of a suit. ‘‘At the last Olympic trials there was an electric atmosphere within the stadium. ‘‘With all the swimmers on such a high and rising to the occasion of course records are going to fall.’’


Clock buster: Stephanie Rice revels in setting the 400 m individual medley record.

Picture: AAP Image/Paul Miller

What good are world records that last simply until the newest piece of technology sees a host of them fall again? Surely it is superior technique, athletic ability and mental toughness that should see a record fall — not a talented swimmer in an advanced synthetic vehicle. The Fastskin LZR Racer is all the rage, but Speedo isn’t a monopoly on swimwear and its competitors won’t let the suit be the ultimate swimming accessory. It’ll mean a whole new set of world records in a couple of years, be it Commonwealth Games, world championships or London 2012 qualifiers. A world record breaker, from the day they set the mark until the day it’s broken, should be considered

the greatest of all time. Look at Javier Sotomayor, the Cuban whose high jump world record in 1993 hasn’t been touched by new millennia shoes, equipment or drugs. The closest a jumper has got to Sotomayor this millennium is 7 cm, it will take the greatest jumper of all time to beat his mark. However, it looks like the world records currently being set in the pool are just temporary, until Beijing, until Nike or adidas has its response suit to Speedo, until Speedo sets the mark again. The suit is cheapening the ‘world record’ tag. I want to worship Stephanie Rice, well I already do, but for her swimming achievements — not the LZR Racer, featuring Stephanie Rice. The people who will be robbed of the glory aren’t just the record holders, but those cheering in the stands.

WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY Cornel Marculescu, executive director of FINA: ‘‘We have to review this. But there is no scientific test to say if a suit supports performance. ‘‘The number one priority is that all suits are made available to everyone at the moment of launch. ‘‘Any innovation should be available to everybody.’’

Alan Thompson, Australian swimming head coach: ‘‘We are having some great performances here and in Europe in an Olympic year. ‘‘Speedo has done a great job in securing the best athletes to wear their suits, and that’s a commercial reality. ‘‘It’s an Olympic year, (world records) is what we expect and what we want to see.’’

Miah Franzmann, Hawaii Ironman triathlete: ‘‘In open water swimming if a suit can provide buoyancy then that’s a massive advantage. ‘‘I and a lot of triathletes need all the help we can get in the swimming leg. ‘‘If a particular suit is the difference between winning and losing then I’d happily spend the money to buy it.’’ Alan Thompson

Elisha Fiddes, Victorian Country Swimmer of the Year: ‘‘I think a lot of it is psychological. Once world records start falling with people in the suit then swimmers who wear it will be confident that with it on they can swim better. It’s all mental, all in the head.’’


Story & for-and-against opinion pieces on influence of Speedo suits on the 2008 swimming nationals