Changing China

Giant on the move

“Fast-skin suits.” A swimsuit – or a performance enhancer?

April 3, 2008

newtonj.jpgJonathon Newton, a Reuters account manager in Australia, has been a competitive swimmer for over 20 years. Last weekend, clad in one of Speedo’s newly released LZR racing suits that take at least 15 minutes to peel on, he came third in the 50 metre freestyle at the Australian Swimming Championships, but his time of 22.15 seconds was 0.13 seconds short of taking him to the Beijing Olympics. Newton, 27, talks about getting into his suit, how it affects his swimming and the debate around swimwear that boasts to improve times by up to 3 percent.

“You really need to wear socks or plastic bags over your feet to get the suit on as there is a kind of sticky rubber on the inside leg. If you’re even slightly wet it is impossible. They are not comfortable but you get used it. You don’t put the suit on until just before you go to the marshalling area and take it off straight after the race so it is on for maybe 30 minutes. You need two people to help with the zip on the back. They pack up very small — about the size of a bag of sugar — and people can’t believe you will fit into the suit when they see it packed. 

These suits cost about A$800 each and they are only good for four or five swims at the most. I feel sorry for parents with young swimmers who grow out of them quickly. I’m grateful that when I was young we all just wore briefs.

I truly believe that there really is no difference between all the major suit makers — Speedo, Adidas, Arena, TYR– but it comes down to your personal preference and how it fits your body. I am sure that the major improvement is psychological. When swimmers shave themselves to race it is not about speed but about the way they feel in the water as it makes you feel like you are really cutting through — like a hot knife through butter. It’s the same with these suits. It makes a difference to how you feel you are moving through the water and if you’re feeling good, you make fewer mistakes.

The NCAA in America decided not to allow these suits at their championships this year because they were not available to all swimmers. (Speedo, whose suit is approved by FINA, has promised to provide about 6,000 suits to Olympic hopefuls so that everyone can have access to one as well as the Australian team which it sponsors). This really gets down to a grey area of what is a performance enhancer. The companies that make the suits say they enhance performance but when put on the spot they back down. This has become an issue in the sport and it is a complex debate. Everyone now uses these suits but can you say it cuts your time? The training methods and science of sport has improved dramatically in the last 10 years as well as the suits coming out so it is hard to know exactly how the different factors are helping us.

I missed the Olympic team by 0.13 second. My time was the 4th fastest ever by an Australian, 11th in the world so far this year, but still I did not make it. I am happy that I swam so fast but at the same time it is a bittersweet victory because it still wasn’t good enough for the Beijing team. At least I can take consolation in the fact that I am still getting faster and able to do what I love with such a busy lifestyle and whilst working at Reuters.”


I think the IOC need to establish a standard for swimsuits worn during swimming competition for both men and women. It’s the only thing that can be done to ensure fairness. We need to ensure that it is not the equipments used in the sport that make the difference, but it’s the athlete’s hard work. I think it’s should be standardized in every olympics sports category as well. Same type of bow & arrows for Archery, same shoes on everyone, same type of racquets on all sports such as tennis, badminton, squash, ping pong.

Posted by Andrew L | Report as abusive

In order to assure that the equipment is not providing an edge over other athletes then the athletes should compete in the nude, as I believe was done in the original Olympics.

Posted by Steve Evans | Report as abusive

I wouldn’t recommend nude athletics, but Steve brings up a point. You either have to let people choose their swimsuits or make them go without. If you start choosing people’s clothes for them as they perform, you become no better than much of that for which China is criticized. Then again, that is where the next olympics will be, so maybe this year everyone should be told what to wear in honor of performing in Beijing.


To Whom It May Concern:


It is so obvious that all media in the Western world are so biased against China and Chinese people, that you have no brain to understand the history and no courage to tell the truth.

When there were thousands of pro-China and pro-Olympic demonstrators showed their supports towards a peaceful torch carrying relay in San Francisco, all you cared and covered was the noise from a small group of pro-Tibet independence people who violated the law by climbing the Golden Gate Bridge and mocked the spirit of Olympic in the name of freedom.

In your coverage, you intentionally mislabeled the pro-China and pro-Olympic supporters as “protesters”.

When Dalai Lama said he supported Olympic game in Beijing all the way, you only reported his second part of the statement that no one can tell the pro-Tibet demonstrators to shut up.

No wonder the first thing that Chinese government did when the riots stared in Lhasa was to kick you out.

Let’s set the facts straight once for all:

1. Tibet is part of China for thousands years, Tibetan people ARE Chinese people. When they travel abroad, they carry Chinese passport. Even Dalai Lama himself has said it so many times that Tibet is part of China . If Dalai Lama admits himself that he is a Chinese, what is your problem?

2. We all have seen what happened in London and Paris. Those so called “peaceful demonstrators for the freedom of Tibet” acted exactly like terrorists. They fought against local law enforcements and attacked athletes who carried the torch, including a girl who was sitting on a wheelchair. What makes you think that those monks in Lhasa were just peacefully expressing their freedom of speech? Those are the same terrorist typed people who started the riots, are your media people just blind or you don’t dare to report the truth?

3. It is wrong to associate politics with Olympic. Those dirty politicians want to have their hands on anything they can touch to show the world that they are actually decent and caring advocates of human rights. Let me ask you a question: What about the right of athletes around the world who have worked so hard to represent their countries in Beijing and earn the medals of their dreams and be proud for the rest of their life? What about the rights of 1.3 billion Chinese people to witness the biggest sport event in the history of China, and be proud to be part of it by embracing the world ?

Further more, when you say “Free Tibet”, how exactly are you planning to liberate a Chinese land from China? Are you going to send your troops to China? Are you willing to go nuclear war with China?

It is time for you left-wing media liberals to tell the truth as it is.

Misleading your readers and audiences will only lead you to the bottom of the sea of ignorance. One day, you will find that no one will read your papers or watch your TV programs any more, not because you have nothing to offer, but because you have been offering nonsense to us and forcing your garbage down our throats!

Enough is enough!!!


Posted by wendy cox | Report as abusive

Takes the level playing field away from the sport if the suit is not standardized for all competitors.Saying that you could say the same about many against the clock sports where an advantage could be gained through clothing choice ,i.e Skiing,cycling,athletics,speed skating ect.
Btw, what has that last post got to do with Belinda Goldsmiths’ ‘fast-skin suits’ blog?.


I feel sorry for past athletes whose records will be broken with the help of these suits and now are too old to test their performance with the new suits(yes they do improve performance). Thats why I think that new records should now have an asterisk or they should establish precisely what percentage improvement the suits confer and enhance the old records by that amount.

Forget Tibet…free Quebec.

Posted by Lou | Report as abusive

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