Reasons To Be Wary When The Appliance Of Science Stretches To The Pygmalion

Michael Phelps - suited to win and set records whatever the fashion happened to be [Photo: Patrick B. Kraemer]

As sports science in athletics debates a 2.4% gain for the first sub-2-hour marathon by 2019, we recall – on the fifth anniversary of the sinking of shiny suits – how such gains can be achieved and why we can do without them

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As sports science in athletics debates a 2.4% gain for the first sub-2-hour marathon by 2019, we recall – on the fifth anniversary of the sinking of shiny suits – how such gains can be achieved and why we can do without them

Comments

Lane Four

The East German predictions for the women were frightening. Especially if these times were their actual predictions……I am not certain they would or could actually DO those times, but frightening to ponder.

Bill Bell

Craig:

Read the article in current Sports illustrated entitled “Want to Avoid Injury? Come See Me” which deals with how elite pro athletes can not only sharpen their performance but also prolong their careers.

Thus may not be the optimal approach for swimmers but it strikes me it couldn’t hurt and maybe provide a boost to conventional in-water work.

And it’s legal too!

Craig Lord

Bill, as far as I can see, a fair few leading swimmers are already engaged in similar things and there’s no evidence of off-the-chart gains that can be put down to a singular process as a result. The ‘guru’ of massive gains from sports science is something else. Wary is how we should be about any who profess to know how to produce rapid and large gains in performance at the very sharp end of the game.

anon

Interesting comparison – what kind of gains were achieved in driving distance in golf with larger driver heads, in tennis serve speeds with larger racquet heads, in track speeds with the introduction of Synthetic tracks? My guess is it would be similar to those we saw with shiny suits. I’m not saying shiny suits are good or bad, I just wonder why technological equipment advances are met with such an outcry in swimming, but not other sports.

Craig Lord

anon, the nature of the sport: all others you mention rely on equipment (i.e. the equipment is a tool essential to the sport) – swimming doesn’t and it takes place in a dense element that presents part of the challenge and the beautiful, aesthetic art of the sport (negate water and you have a different sport altogether) … suits are required for modesty and can and do make swimmers feel at their best for the race. Perfectly ok to find ways to improve things on the way from wool to the textile suits and the fit we know today that contribute(s) to drag reduction and such things. There is a borderline; shiny suits not only crossed it but opened the possibility of abuse of a different kind in an age where the application of medicine and healing methods is offered through materials that can be worn, extent of body cover one of the keys to that process. Swimming doesn’t need any of that.

Clive Rushton

Yes, Craig, indeed, the water changes everything. The qualities and characteristics of water during swimming activities are significantly and substantially different to those encountered by any other sport, even those which have water as a medium – canoeing, kayaking, sailing, etc.

The other sports have a hull shape which is, a) designable, and, b) stable. Swimmers have to make do with a hull shape which is imposed on them and which changes with every movement.

The water changes everything. Not many investigators of the sport fully understand that.

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