Are Speedos the Key to Japanese Olympic Glory?

June 13, 2008 at 9:00 am

Who knew the science and art of creating the “world’s fastest swimsuit” was this complicated? Earlier this year, Speedo joined forces with NASA to concoct a cutting-edge, ultrasonically welded body suit called the LZR Racer. It’s been wind tunnel tested and contains polyurethane panels to “reduce drag” (skin friction). Apparently it feels seamless to the swimmer, and every Olympic hopeful in Beijing this summer probably wants to get his or her hands on one.

Until recently, Japanese swimmers were not allowed to wear Speedo brand. Forbes.com says that in the past, Japanese swimmers were contracted to select their swimwear from one of three Japanese firms: Mizuno, Asics or Descente.

For awhile it looked like the Japanese Swimming Federation wasn’t going to budge on its stance, but on Tuesday, June 10, the ban was lifted – under threat of possible revolt, specifically led by Kosuke Kitajima, a famous Japanese swimmer, who, while wearing the LZR Racer, won the Japan Open this month. The 25-year-old set new records at the 50-, 100- and 200-meter breaststroke events (in which he shaved a full second off his previous time), so who can blame him for wanting to keep up the winning streak?

Kitajima caused a minor scandal four years ago at the 2004 Olympic games in Greece, when he was accused of using “an illegal dolphin kick” at the start of his race. However, no whistle was called during the meet and he went on to claim the gold. To see if Kitajima wins again this year, tune in to the Olympics on NBC starting August 9th. Teams will be announced mid-July, and you can check your predictions against this guy’s.

Sarah S.

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