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Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Thursday, 3 April 2008 16:22 UK

Making a splash

By Bryn Palmer

Michael Phelps and Caitlin McClatchey model the new Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit
Many swimmers, such as Michael Phelps and Britain's Caitlin McClatchey, use the new suit

Liam Tancock became the first British swimmer to break a world record since Adrian Moorhouse in 1990 when he posted 24.47 seconds for the 50m backstroke at the British Olympic trials.

Like 18 of the 19 swimmers who have set new world marks in the past two months, Tancock was wearing a Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit, a full-length model developed in association with Nasa.

So does the suit offer swimmers an artificial advantage, or is it merely complementary technology to athletes already stretching the boundaries of their sport?

Steve Parry (SP), who won Britain's first Olympic medal - a bronze in the 200m butterfly - for eight years at the last Games in Athens, is working for BBC Radio 5 Live at the British trials in Sheffield.

He tried out the new suit on Wednesday and offers an insight into how it works.

Q: So what's all the fuss about?

SP: Every time there is an Olympics or World Championships coming up, swimmers are talking about what suit they are going to wear.

The buzz this year is around the Speedo suit but there are lots of different companies making it - adidas, Nike, Arena.

It is transferring to the pool as well - we had one world record, five Commonwealth records and nine British records just in the first three days out of six at the British trials in Sheffield.

Q: What's so good about the new suit then?

SP: Well, they told me this thing has ultra thin panels to reduce drag, core stabilisers to help the swimmers coming down the last length - when their abdominal muscles are killing - and also bonded seams so there is no stitching to slow you down.

I have seen and heard it all before with these new suits - first we had the Nylon, then the Fastskin II, then the Pro-Swim. I haven't swum in a couple of years but wearing this new suit, it really does feel like fantastic technology.

Q: So an easy fit then?

SP: Not exactly. It took me about 25 minutes to get the thing on and it was killing my nether regions!

Q: What does it feel like once you manage it?

SP: To be honest it actually feels like you are not wearing very much at all. You are as streamlined as you can possibly be.

It held me nice and high in the water, I felt fast in it, and when I jumped out the water the panels went dry immediately.

Q: Sounds like it makes you more buoyant. Isn't that unfair?

SP: There is no buoyancy in it, because it is illegal to put buoyancy aids in a swimsuit. And there has to be a certain thickness to the suit for it to be legal.

**NB: Cornel Marculsecu, the executive director of swimming's world government body Fina, told BBC Sport last week that "there is no proof any swimsuits provide any advantage to swimmers".

Q: There must be a reason for all these records though, surely?

SP: We have to get this in perspective. These guys have been training for a decade to make the Olympic team, but as well as the technology, there is a certain placebo effect.

The swimmers turn up, everyone is buzzing and asking each other 'have you tried the new suit?' and there are British and Commonwealth records being broken. The guys are putting it on and they know they are going to be doing really well.

see also
Tancock races to new world record
02 Apr 08 |  Swimming
Foster through to fifth Olympics
02 Apr 08 |  Swimming
McClatchey sets new British mark
31 Mar 08 |  Swimming
Records 'not down to swimsuits'
27 Mar 08 |  Swimming
Swimsuit technology under review
25 Mar 08 |  Swimming
GB women smash Euro medley record
24 Mar 08 |  Swimming
Bernard claims third world record
23 Mar 08 |  Swimming
Scientists invent speedy swimsuit
11 Mar 08 |  Nottinghamshire
Parry enjoys medal euphoria
17 Aug 04 |  Swimming
Parry wins butterfly bronze
17 Aug 04 |  Swimming
Swimming on the BBC
02 Oct 07 |  Swimming

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