It’s that time again. It comes around every 4 years, bringing hype and excitement to the United States. I’m referring to the summer Olympic Games, being held in Athens, Greece this summer. Being an athlete myself, I inevitably find myself riveted to the TV screen during Olympic year when my favorite sports are on; if I’m not home, I set up the VCR recorder and tape them so I’m able to watch it later. But there is always that one sport that I never miss a single race or broadcasted moment, where I know every USA athlete by name, and when I root them on as if they were my own teammates – it’s the world of swimming.
Swimming has by no means been the most popular sport in past year. Sports such as basketball, football, and baseball have been the ones to produce role-model athletes and have given those athletes the opportunity to make a living on their talent. But in recent years, swimming has slowly evolved, and our swimmers are now USA’s top chances in winning gold at Athens this year.
Athletes such as Michael Phelps, who became the youngest male swimmer to qualify for the Olympic Games at age 15 in 2000, and Natalie Coughlin, who was voted top female athlete for the year 2003, have given swimming a popularity which it has never known before. Phelps was displayed on the cover of a recent ESPN magazine, and a feature story was written on Coughlin in USA Today last year.
Money, too, has become an interest in swimming; swimmers can now turn professional and support themselves, whereas previously, this was unheard of. A handsome fee is being offered to swimmers who accomplish specific feats, such as breaking a world record and winning Olympic gold.
So why all these changes, one might be inclined to ask. Well, according to Greg Dillingham, owner of Norcal swim shop in Napa, technology has finally reached the world of swimming. Other sports have been influenced by technology’s continual improvements and have benefited by it immensely. However, when it comes to swimming, it has been very difficult to find ways in which to help the athletes. Finally Speedo, a manufacturer of swimming products, decided to find a way to use technology’s vast knowledge for the swimmer’s advantage. So began the revolution of the swimsuit.
In 2000, Speedo took the current race suit up to the time, the FASTSKIN, and developed the new FASTSKIN II (FSII) which will most likely be seen in this Olympic’s competition. The suit is meant to imitate the rough dentricles on a shark, according to Speedo, which will reduce the drag along main areas of the swimmer’s body. This fabric design is intended to stop skin vibration and “muscle oscillation,” which will decrease the body’s resistance in the water by about 4 percent. Speedo also added “channeling dots” on the suit’s fabric to help cut down the drag through the water.
“The FSII will cost about $350,” said Dillingham, “and are stroke specific.” This means that a specific FSII suit has been made for the four different strokes in swimming to enhance each stroke individually in their specific areas.
What makes the FSII so unusual and such a big change in the sport of swimming is that it’s a suit that covers the entire body from shoulders to ankles. Every individual swimmer is going to have his or her own opinion on how they feel swimming in it. It’s also a suit that will most likely be used only at the National and Olympic levels of swimming. It’s a tool that will help the athlete only if they have the essentials done first: the intensive training, proper nutrition, decent rest, and a strong mental mind. If any of these are missing, then it’s pointless to use the FSII to improve yourself.
I am personally thrilled to see swimming moving its way up in the wide world of sports. I almost feel connected to the soon -to-be Olympians of this year because their names have become familiar to me. Especially world-record holder Natalie Coughlin – several years ago my own sister had the opportunity to compete with her.
I hope to one day join the Olympic roster in swimming; until then, I have to be content to sit back and watch the US take on the rest of the world in the Olympic Games in Greece, where there is sure to be intense competition in all summer sports. Go USA!!!