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進化する記録 本当に水着の効果なのか (2)

2009年06月07日 03:15


進化する記録 本当に水着の効果なのか (1)

Another revealing statistic is the sustained rate of improvement by the same swimmers one year after the latest generation of suits was introduced. Many elite swimmers are smashing their own person records set a year ago wearing the same suits. How do the suit critics account for this widespread, sustained improvement?

In fact, at the Beijing Games, some swimmers wore multiple suits, layering them in an attempt to gain an advantage, an ethically questionable practice no longer allowed. Based on this rule change, times should be getting slower, not faster. Furthermore, if the performance boost from these suits is anything approaching what their opponents claim, the fact that several active world record setting swimmers have not set person records in the new high-tech suit era is inexplicable. Apparently, they are not good speedboat drivers.

Drag Coefficient
The new suit fabrics create less drag. That's really the most important thing they do.

Although the suits may make swimmers feel more buoyant, they do not float as many critics claim. It's not the so-called "air-trapping" quality that accounts for the suits' effectiveness. Drag is by far the greatest obstacle in swimming, not gravity.

The fastest swimmers are not the most buoyant. It is far more advantageous to be streamlined than to carry extra body fat. With nearly half of short course races swum underwater, it is hard to see how positive buoyancy would be helpful anyway. The tech suits reduce drag at the expense of feel for the water and range of motion, which is probably why most 2008 Olympic swimmers choose not to wear the full body versions.

The advantage these suits provide is real, but overstated. The polyurethane suits are not disproportionately faster than the previous generation of suits. Polyurethane is more slippery than lycra and maintains this property far longer because it cannot become waterlogged.

Making suits that are more streamlined and more slippery is a time-honored tradition in our sport. Polyurethane and other hydrophobic materials are the next logical step in a long progression of fabric and suit design. This evolutionary step is arguably no more than the advantage of nylon over wool, and lycra over nylon. Who gets to decide that fabric evolution must stop now? Why should swimmers be required to compete in waterlogged materials? How does that make the sport more "pure"? Is FINA working with a coherent and consistent framework and prepared to handle the nuance of sorting out emerging technologies?  

If not the suits, what is it?
World records are falling with uncommon regularity. But why? It's not just the suits (although they certainly play a role) and it's not rampant doping (although there is undoubtedly some drug boosting going on somewhere).

See you NEXT !



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