NEW YORK (Reuters) - The bodysuit war that reduced the 2009 swimming world championships to farce and effectively turned the sport into a battle of technology could erupt again on Wednesday when Michael Phelps takes to the catwalk to launch a new outfit for next year’s London Olympics.
Phelps was bitterly opposed to the now-banned swimsuits that were used in Rome two years ago, refusing to wear them because he believed they aided buoyancy, but he is getting ready to promote a new space-age suit.
More than 40 world records were set during the championships, setting off howls of protests, and Phelps, who said he considered quitting the sport, was vindicated when the sport’s world governing body FINA agreed to ban them and place a limit on technology.
However, with the start of the London Olympics less than eight months away, Phelps will join fellow Americans Ryan Lochte and Natalie Coughlin on Wednesday to unveil the latest suit they will wear in London.
Makers Speedo say it is both revolutionary and innovative and will produce a flood of world records at the Olympics.
Before 2009, not all scientists who tested the suits were convinced they provided any real benefits but the claims, which are sure to trigger another technology war with rival suit makers, have nevertheless been a marketing dream for sponsors.
For most of the swimmers, the controversy is no more than a storm in a teacup. World records never last long in swimming and Phelps believes all the records set in the now-illegal suits are also doomed to tumble.
“Records are always made to be broken, in my eyes that’s not a question,” Phelps told Reuters in an exclusive interview marking the launch of his appointment as the global face of head&shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo.
“If people want to work hard and do it then they will do it. There are still people who have that desire to be the best they can and they will find it. It can be done.”
Phelps currently holds the world record for three individual events — 100 and 200 meters butterfly and 400m individual medley.
The 14-times Olympic gold medalist also once held the 200m freestyle and 200m medley marks but lost them both at Rome in 2009. He was beaten by Germany’s Paul Biedermann in the freestyle and Lochte in the medley.
Lochte went on to lower his record even further at this year’s world championships in Shanghai, proving that the records from Rome could be bettered.
“People have got to get out of their heads that these records are untouchable,” Phelps told Reuters.
“Everything is possible. That’s something I have learnt in my career. There are no limits if you want to go out and do it then you just go out and do it.
“If you have that thought process, that you think you can do it, then you can do it. You’re going to see a lot of fast swims and hopefully we’re going to see a lot of new records in the next year and I think we will.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford