Olympic trials and speedy Speedos
by Ian Wright - GB swimming coach (U10891601) 11 March 2008
Hi, I am the Head Coach of Warrender Swimming Club in Edinburgh, one of Scotland’s leading swimming clubs. I also coach at international level for both Scotland and Great Britain.
The LZR suit claims to reduce drag in the water more than other suits, however there still remains some controversy as it is not on general sale until May or June this year
The International Olympic Committee controversially decided to hold the swimming finals in Beijing in mid-morning local time in order to suit the host broadcaster’s desires for the prime time US television audience.
It is a new challenge for most swimmers and it will be interesting to see how athletes approach it and the different ways it may affect results.
Swimmers and coaches throughout Britain will have been preparing for the trials in lots of different ways.
Many flee Britain for training camps in warmer climes abroad, in some cases for several weeks or months at a time.
From my club, Lewis Smith and Ewan Johnston were part of a Scottish team which recently spent time training and competing in America.
A three week training camp in Chattanooga in Tennessee was followed by a tough competition test at the Missouri Grand Prix Meet in Columbia, Missouri.
The competition was running morning finals and evening heats so it was a good chance to practice the environment the swimmers will face at the GB Olympic trials.
It was also stacked with almost all the leading American swimmers and several other top class swimmers from around the world.
Lewis, Ewan and a third swimmer I had on the team, Billy Purnell, all responded well to the challenge, gaining useful experience from making finals against such opposition.
Lewis placed 5th in the 400m Individual Medley where, among others, he lined up alongside world record holder, world champion and current Olympic champion Michael Phelps.
It is not often that world records fall outside the major championships but already this year, four have been broken
As one would expect of the world’s leading swimmer, Phelps won the race quite comfortably and he remains the biggest name to watch out for this summer in Beijing.
He returned home from Athens in 2004 with six gold and two bronze medals, the most number of medals won by a swimmer in any Olympics.
In Beijing this summer eight gold medals are the target for Phelps which would surpass the feat of Mark Spitz in 1972, and truly elevate Phelps into the pantheon of world’s best ever sportsmen as well as the best ever Olympian of all time.
What do you think - will he win eight golds?
Phelps is not the only big name in swimming these days though, and many others will also be striving to make their mark.
Some of these swimmers have been firing warning shots to the world with some very fast early season swims.
It is not often that world records fall outside the major championships but already this year, four world records have been broken, including two at the Missouri Grand Prix Meet that I was at.
America’s Natalie Coughlin lowered her own world record in the women’s 100m backstroke, while Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry smashed the 17 year old world standard in the 200m backstroke, erasing the mark set back in 1991 by Hungary’s Krisztina Egerszegi.
With swimmers moving forward at pace across the world already, Beijing is building up to be the best swim meet of all time and of course Britain is going to have to move forward significantly as well if we want to beat the two bronze medals we won in 2004.
It has been suggested in some quarters that part of the reason for this early shift in times is the latest in swimming technology.
Speedo chose the weekend of the Missouri Grand Prix Meet to launch their new racing suit, called the LZR.
No doubt many of the medals won in Beijing will be won by swimmers wearing this LZR suit
Swimmers have been using bodysuits to race in (as opposed to regular trunks and costumes) since 2000 and the technology surrounding these suits keeps advancing every year.
All the swimwear manufacturers design and produce their own version of what they claim is the fastest suit to use, and the new Speedo suit for 2008 certainly appears to be working so far, both world records in Missouri were set whilst wearing it.
The LZR suit claims to reduce drag in the water more than other suits by using special panels of material that were designed with the help of American space technology at NASA.
No doubt many of the medals won in Beijing will be won by swimmers wearing this suit.
However, there still remains some controversy as whilst it has been officially launched it is not yet available on general sale and won’t be until May or June.
That means most people at the British Olympic Trials will not have access to it, apart from a few lucky swimmers who helped Speedo test the product or have friends who can get them it.
A disadvantage for everyone else? We may never know.
But what we can be sure of is that swimming is moving forward rapidly and 2008 is going to be a very exciting year for the sport.
In Britain, that excitement is just about ready to step up a few notches with the Olympic Trials, at the great Ponds Forge pool in Sheffield from 31 March to 6 April.
I'll post more on the Olympic trials a little later, but if there are any questions you want to ask me on training regimes, diet, tapering and so on, please leave them here and I'll try to answer them in my next piece.
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