Speedo’s controversial swimsuit at the Olympic Games

Jul 1, 2008 at 12:39 p.m. ET

If you've been tuning in to the US Olympic swimming trials this week, then you probably noticed the gray and black bathing suit many of the swimmers are sporting. Called the LZR Racer by Speedo, this sleeveless, full-length getup isn't your typical tank suit. Rather, it is a high-tech work of art, manufactured by scientists, including pros from NASA. Made of a high-tech fabric designed for minimum drag, the material is meant to cut through water like a knife. Here's more about this space-age suit and how it may change the sport of swimming forever.

LZR Racer


Does the swim suit really make the man (or woman)? When it comes to the LZR Racer, it appears so. Nearly 50 world records have been set by swimmers wearing the LZR Racer since its release in February, with many more expected to fall during the Olympic Games in August. So what, exactly, makes this suit so superior?

For starters, the ultra lightweight and water repellent woven fabric, which feels similar to thin paper, is ultrasonically welded instead of sewn and has no visible seams (which, surprisingly, can slow a swimmer down). Black panels, made from a latex-like material, are placed along the chest, thighs, and backside, and work to compress the body into a more streamlined shape, reducing drag and allowing for more power and agility in the water.

Then, there is the fit. Super-tight, the suit clings to a swimmer's body like a glove (some athletes claim it takes up to ten minutes just to get the LZR Racer on!). The second-skin effect combined with the supersonic fabric is a magical meld that is allowing swimmers to slice off seconds from their times - and notch up those world records and coveted Olympic berths.


Of course, it's hard to make such a huge splash in the sports world without controversy. Rival manufacturers claim that the LZR Racer gives those swimmers who wear it an unfair advantage over those who don't. Apparel brand TYR has even gone as far as filing a lawsuit in mid-May, accusing Speedo of attempting to monopolize the competitive swimwear marketplace with this one-of-a-kind suit.

Speedo, who said the lawsuit is "without merit," swiftly responded to these accusations by making 2500 LZR suits available to any swimmer who wished to wear one at this week's Olympic Trails in Omaha, Nebraska. "As the suit is available to all swimmers, there is no unfair advantage," said Craig Brommers, vice president of marketing for Speedo.


Unless you are an aspiring Olympic swimmer, chances are you won't be sporting the LZR Racer anytime soon. For starters, the suit is just about impossible to find in any stores as Speedo only manufactured a minimal supply (though you can try to pre-order a suit through Speedo's website). But the cost, which is between $290 and $550 per suit, may have you sticking to your spandex Speedo for the time being, no matter how fast you want to go.

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