When I wrote this previous blog entry, I sarcastically poked fun at Park Tae-hwan’s handlers in blaming Park’s losses at the most recent world championships on his swimming suit, probably because it reminded me of this guy and others like him. However, there has been a lot of harsh criticism of the suits, to the point that they will be banned next year.
Phelps’ coach has threatened to not have him swim again until the ban is in place.
“Probably expect Michael not to swim until they are implemented,” Bowman said. “I’m done with this. It has to be implemented immediately. The sport is in shambles right now and they better do something or they’re going to lose their guy who fills these seats.
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“It took Michael from 2003 to 2008 to go from 1:46 to 1:42.9 and this guy’s done it in 11 months. That’s an amazing training program. I would love to know how that works.”
Phelps himself had some strong words about them.
After the race, Phelps made his strongest statement yet about the suit controversy. When asked by NBC’s Andrea Kremer about his “inferior suit”, Phelps declined to take a direct shot at Biedermann but said, “I will say that next year swimming will be swimming again. You’re going to have to do all the work and there’s not going to be a suit that does it for you.”
Even the new champion from Germany, Paul Biedermann, gave a lot of credit to the suits.
“The suits make a difference,” Biedermann said. “Last year, it was Speedo. This year, it’s Arena.
“I hope there will be a time when I can beat Michael Phelps without these suits,” the German added. “I hope next year. I hope it’s really soon.”
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Biedermann conceded after his 400 free win that the suit made him two seconds faster, but Phelps passed on the chance to wear one of the latest-generation suits. He’s been sponsored by Speedo since he was a teenager and wasn’t about to abandon the company that paid him a US$1-million bonus after he won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.
Shortly before the race, FINA confirmed that a bodysuit ban will take effect by May 2010, making this the last major competition where buoyancy-aiding suits are allowed.
“It’s not my problem,” Biedermann said. “It’s the problem of FINA. They should handle it really fast.”
So what will be permissible next year?
Suit materials will be restricted to “textiles,” a definition of which will be determined by a scientific committee. FINA also announced specific standards for buoyancy, thickness and permeability. The complete rules will be given to swimsuit companies by Sept. 30.