Speedo’s Fastskin swimsuits, modeled on shark skin, reduce drag and increase speed. The newer versions, FSII and Fastskin LZR Racer, are considered the most advanced professional swimwear in the world and have broken over 40 swimming records. Critics argue that the suits give some swimmers an unfair advantage, but sports officials have ruled them acceptable for international competition. The technology has changed professional swimming and could continue to do so in the future.
The Speedo® Fastskin was the original Speedo® swimsuit modeled on the skin of sharks. With advanced techniques, swimsuits are meant to reduce drag in the water and increase speed. Although the original Fastskin® model has been retired, the newer versions, FSII and Fastskin LZR Racer® are considered by many experts to be the most advanced professional swimwear in the world. As of July 2008, more than 40 swimming records have been broken by swimmers using the Fastskin LZR Racer.
In 2000, the original Speedo® Fastskin model was launched at the Sydney Olympics. Using shark skin as a template, Speedo® designers had created a leotard that mimicked the texture and efficiency of shark skin. At that year’s Olympics, 83 percent of the swimming medals won were by coverall-wearing swimmers.
For the 2004 Athens Olympics, a new Speedo® Fastskin suit was on display: the FSII, an updated version of the original. This model featured seams that would follow the direction of the water, reducing drag. The super tight suit also had a more flexible thread than the original, allowing for greater range and ease of movement. Using a combination of the sharkskin-like material and another fabric called flexskin, the swimsuit helps different parts of the body move in the water, allowing swimmers to swim faster. At the Athens Games, athletes wearing the FSII won 47 medals.
The newest version of the shark suit is stunning for professional swimmers and spectators alike. Speedo® claims the Fastskin LZR Racer improves performance by dramatically reducing drag by 10% over FSII and allowing for better oxygen efficiency and faster turns in the water. The suit was developed with the help of NASA and the Australian Institute of Sport and patented in Portugal, making it a truly multinational development.
Not surprisingly, the use of advanced wetsuits has raised considerable controversy in the world of professional swimming. Critics suggest that the suits give some swimmers a strong edge, especially over those who can’t afford them easily. For some, using Speedo® Fastskin suit technology is akin to doping or using weighted equipment. Instead of relying on the athlete’s strength, the swimsuit seems to do most of the work for them.
However, sports officials believe the suit’s use is justifiable in competition. After complaints, the International Swimming Federation, or FINA, ruled that the Speedo® Fastskin LZR Racer was acceptable for all international competition. Rival companies quickly began producing similar products in time for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The Speedo® Fastskin line changed the world of professional swimming. By eliminating the natural resistance of the water on the body, swimmers hurtle through the pool, achieving incredibly high speeds and setting new world records. If the technology continues to improve, swimming competitions could be more about the capabilities of the suit rather than the swimmer. For now, be sure to check out the Fastskin LZR Racer at upcoming pro events where it’s sure to be a feature.