Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yo, Adrian!


The Main Blurb
While Rebecca Soni was racing the semifinal of the 200 breaststroke tonight, commentator Dan Hicks mentioned that the world record at that time was held by Canadian swimmer Annamay Pierse, who broke that record during “the suit era.”

Here is my brief explanation about what “the suit era” entails:

Right before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Speedo released a new polyurethane-based swimsuit for its competitors called the LZR Racer. It was a skin-tight suit – so tight that it took swimmers more time than usual to shimmy the suit all the way up (it was seamless). The polyurethane was “designed to help buoyancy and support certain muscles,” which allowed swimmers to swim faster longer. (http://technology.inquirer.net/2276/swimming-%E2%80%98super-suit%E2%80%99-era-refuses-to-go-quietly for those who are curious)

Swimmers took to this like bees to honey, and instead of wearing the normal swimwear for competitors, they ordered suits that went down to the ankles and up to their necks and even on their sleeves! And that was just the men! (Full body suits were first introduced in the 2000 Olympics.)

These suits improved performance, just like advertised. The problem was, it was almost too good. And as swimmers turned to Speedo for their swimwear, competitors like Jaked and Arena produced their own polyurethane-based swimsuits. And as more swimsuits went on the market, more records fell. As a matter of fact, in the suit era over 200 world records were broken!

The world record breaking had gotten out of control by the time no-name swimmers in Rome (who were subsequently never heard from again) were breaking world records in the world championships in 2009. As a matter of fact, the suits became part of a rivalry between Serbia’s Milorad Cavic and Michael Phelps. Cavic was wearing the X-Glide, a “next generation” all-polyurethane suit made by Arena. Phelps stuck with his old reliable LZR Racer from Speedo, not willing to part with his longtime sponsor. Cavic had said earlier in the week that people would say Cavic beat Phelps “because of the suit.” He even offered to buy one of the new suits for Phelps to wear in the 100 meter butterfly final.

Well, Phelps ended up winning that final with the old suit, and gave a yell as he tugged his LZR Racer. Clearly it was about more than just “the suit.” (If you haven’t seen that race from 2009, go onto YouTube and watch it. It was fabulous!)

But not all swimmers, coaches, viewers, and judges believed that. After those world championships, FINA banned full-body swimsuits (having banned suits that went on and past the neck and past the shoulders back in March of that year), declaring that male swimmers will have suits from the waist to the knee, and women swimmers from the shoulders to the knee. They also declared that suits must be made of “textiles,” meaning the rubberized polyurethane was now banned.

The ban took effect January 1, 2010, meaning any world records broken after that mark would be remarkable, because the faster suits were not in play. People said that there wouldn’t be a world record broken for ten years after the “suit era.”

Well, in 2011 two world records fell (Sun Yang in the 1500 m freestyle and Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM), and already in London five more have fallen.

So hopefully you’ll more easily understand what Dan and Rowdy are talking about if they ever make reference to “the suit era.”  End of lesson.

Mini Blurbs
The best part of male gymnast Kohei Uchimura? His anime-style hair. I was rooting for him to win soley because of his hair.

The Netherlands has a long history of great names, but I saw one today that is added to my “greatest names” book: swimmer Ranomi Kromowidjojo. Kro-mo-wid-jo-jo. Even with the five-syllable name, she doesn’t beat my Greatest Name of All Time: male swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband. Just say it out loud. You can’t help but smile.

There were some great finishes today, but nothing beats the one one-hundredth second finish between American Nathan Adrian and Australia’s James Magnussen. Pretty much all of Australia fell into a state of despair with that touch by Adrian.

Congrats to Great Britain for their two gold medals today in rowing and cycling!The rings on Tower Bridge turned gold in honor of the wins.

Watching the American women’s volleyball and water polo matches were pretty thrilling today. The volleyball team beat China in a sweep, but the Chinese made them play six match points before Megan Hodge finally sealed the deal. She was on fire the final two sets. In water polo Spain had the early lead, but the Americans came back and seemingly took over with minutes left and a 9-6 lead. Well, Spain came back and the Americans were forced into a draw, 9-9.

Losing on purpose like the badminton team? Anyone remember “Suck for Luck”? (The thought last NFL season that teams were purposely tanking games so they’d be #1 in the NFL draft and get Andrew Luck.) Things like this happen way more often than we think.

Tonight’s roundup: cycling, gymnastics, swimming, water polo, volleyball, beach volleyball, rowing, diving, baseball. (Baseball? Oh – I did catch some of the Tigers-Red Sox game tonight. There is more going on than just the Olympics, silly.)

Tomorrow I’m just going to stick with Mini Blurbs unless something big happens. I have meetings all day tomorrow and a party in the evening, so my Olympics attention will be a little less than normal. Bear with me!