Bodysuit makes waves at triathlon world championships

When money is no object, the creme de la creme of swim gifts is the high-tech speed suit that debuted in Sydney  Credit: Courtesy Speedo
The new Speedo Fastskin bodysuit that has caused a ruckus in international swimming circles appears to be churning up controversy in the waters of professional triathlon racing.

Based on the skin of a shark, the Fastskin bodysuit which has been approved for Olympic competition is composed of tiny hydrofoils and V-shaped ridges that decrease turbulence and drag as the swimmer moves through the water.

Recently, Speedo has developed a version of this innovative suit specifically for use in triathlon racing.

Speedo will offer the suit for free to athletes competing in both the Olympics and the International Triathlon Union World Championships in Perth, Australia, on April 30.

However, athletes from several countries, including triathlon powerhouse Australia, may not be able to take advantage of the Fastskin due to conflicting sponsorship deals with rival sporting goods manufacturers.

Australian triathlete Greg Bennett said the Speedo Fastskin swimming suits should not be allowed.

"I think we should ban them altogether," he said.

Bennett, who is the ITU's No. 4-ranked triathlete, said he thought the aim should be for all swimmers to compete on an equal footing.

He also indicated he was not in favor of competitors wearing wetsuits.

"I'd be happy to ban wetsuits altogether, even right down to 16 degrees (Celsius)," he said.

Under current ITU rules, triathletes can wear wetsuits at water temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius, or 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fellow Australian triathlete Miles Stewart said he didn't know what the fuss was about.

"I don't think (the swimsuit) makes you ride or run any faster," Stewart said. "So it probably doesn't make much difference.

"I wore one in (the Australian National Championships), and in hindsight I probably should have worn togs I suffered dehydration pretty badly."

At least two elite female competitors in the Triathlon Championship Great Britain's Sian Brice and American Barb Lindquist plan to wear the controversial swimsuits.

Under ITU regulations, any competitors who start in the swimsuits must finish in them that is, they must wear them in the swimming, cycling and running legs. The Fastskin bodysuits have been modified to adhere to this rule.

Also today, former triathlon world champion Greg Welch was confirmed as the flag-bearer for the Parade of Nations at tomorrow's opening ceremony for the QANTAS 2000 ITU Triathlon World Championship.

Welch also is team manager for the Australian team, and was an Olympic contender until a rare heart disease ended his career prematurely in January.

The opening ceremony will be presided over by the new elected ITU president, who is due to be voted in tomorrow morning at an ITU Congress meeting in Perth.

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