May 14, 2008 / 7:52 AM / 11 years ago

Japanese swimmers could do U-turn on bodysuits

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s swimmers could ditch their existing swimsuit makers and wear Speedo’s space-age LZR bodysuit at this year’s Beijing Olympics.

Austria's Mirna Jukic prepares to swim in her LZR Speedo suit in the Women's 200m Breaststroke on the fifth day of the world short course swimming championships in Manchester, northern England in this April 13, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis/Files

Japanese officials paved the way for an abrupt U-turn by announcing that swimmers could test the controversial Speedo suit at an Olympic send-off competition next month.

“We haven’t set any limitations (on what suits swimmers can wear),” Japan Swimming Federation (JSF) executive director Kazuo Sano told Wednesday’s Japanese media.

“It’s a competition for all those swimmers going to the Olympics. They may wear Speedo suits if they wish. We still have options.”

Speedo used to have a licensing tie-up with Japan’s Mizuno, one of three JSF-approved manufacturers along with Descente and Asics.

But Mizuno developed their own brand last year and ended their association with Speedo, taking with them many top Japanese swimmers, including double Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima.

Mizuno unveiled its new swordfish-inspired design last month in response to Speedo’s LZR suit.

World records have tumbled over the last few months, almost all by swimmers wearing the LZR Racer bodysuit, which Speedo says reduces drag, muscle oscillation and skin vibration.

Kitajima’s coach Norimasa Hirai warned Japanese officials that the country’s swimmers would be at a huge disadvantage if they were unable to wear the same suits in Beijing.

JSF officials are scheduled to make a final ruling on the issue on June 10, following the Japan Open competition in Tokyo.

Kitajima, who won gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters breaststroke in Athens four years ago, is preparing to test a new improved Mizuno suit this weekend.

The hi-tech Mizuno suit is designed to give Kitajima the explosive speed of a marlin, believed to be the fastest fish in the ocean with a top speed of 100 kilometers an hour.

Editing by John O'Brien

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