NEW YORK (Reuters) - Michael Phelps, looking more like Spiderman than the world’s fastest swimmer, unveiled the high-tech swimsuit he plans to wear at next year’s London Olympics on Wednesday.
Flanked by some of his American team mates, including Ryan Lochte and Natalie Coughlin, Phelps strutted the catwalk in Manhattan to launch the latest range of skin-tight suits that the makers Speedo say will give their swimmers a massive edge over their rivals.
“Knowing that I’m in the best suit has always been something that I thought was a cool gift,” said Phelps.
Speedo claimed the Fastskin3 suits, which are part of a revolutionary new ‘system’ that includes space-age caps and wider goggles, would significantly improve the performances of swimmers and trigger a flood of world records in London.
“These are the fastest suits ever made,” Speedo scientist doctor Tom Waller said.
“We hope that means records will be broken but that still comes down to the swimmers.
“What we have created is a system where all the technologies work in harmony with the swimmers’ natural talent to give them the chance to maximise their potential.”
Waller said the suits had taken four years to develop but would improve oxygen economy by 11 percent and reduce drag by 16.6 percent underwater and 5.2 percent on the surface.
“In a sport where gold medals are decided by hundredths of a second, that’s a huge advantage,” said Phelps’s coach Bob Bowman, who helped develop the suits.
Bowman and Phelps were outspoken critics of the full-body polyurethane suits that reduced the 2009 world championships in Rome to farce and were later banned because they aided buoyancy.
But both said they were comfortable with the new suits, which Speedo said had been approved by the sport’s world governing body FINA.
“I think the difference between this and what happened before is that we’re giving them an edge but we’re doing it in three ways: cap, suit and goggles,” said Bowman.
“It’s also done in a way that each swimmer can benefit the same from the suit. I don’t think one swimmer will have a decided advantage over the competition because of the way the suit is put together and it’s clearly within the FINA guidelines.”
Lochte, one of just two swimmers to have already broken world records that were set in Rome, conceded that the suits may create an uneven playing field but it was up to every competitor to choose their own swimwear.
“When I put it on I feel superhuman, I feel like I can beat anyone. When I get on the blocks I’m like an action figure,” he said.
“It’s out there for everyone, it’s not like it’s only available for Speedo athletes. It’s out there for any swimmer who wants to wear it so it’s their disadvantage if they don’t want to wear it.”
Coughlin said the biggest benefit to her were the new goggles that are fitted with hydroscopic lens and 180 degree peripheral vision, making them look like spider’s eyes.
“Well, I’m a backstroker so I can’t afford to take a look around and see where my competitors are but with these I can see everything without moving my head,” she said.
Editing by Rex Gowar