Last modified: Monday, September 11, 2000
Little impact found for new swimsuits at U.S. trials
Research to continue at Olympics
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The highly touted new full-body swimsuits had virtually no effect on the performances of elite American swimmers at the recent Olympic trials in Indianapolis, according to an Indiana University exercise physiologist. The research on this issue will continue at the Olympic Games in Sydney.
Joel Stager, director of the IU Human Performance Laboratory, monitored the times of the finalists at all the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials since 1968 to predict the winning times at the recent trials in Indianapolis. Stager plans to do the same for the swimming events at the Sydney Olympics.
"Our assumption was that if no cataclysmic change occurred, we could predict the winning times with considerable accuracy, " Stager said. His predictions, in 13 events for both men and women, were off by less than 1 percent and led him to conclude the new body suits were not a factor. "Our studies showed an error rate of 0.23 percent for women and 0.37 percent for men, which is extremely accurate and validates our procedures," he said.
"The only event in which the swimmers performed better than our projections was one in which none of the swimmers wore anything other than a traditionally cut swimsuit."
Stager, a national champion in masters swimming, is internationally known for his swimming research. He is editor of The Journal of Swimming Research. His swimsuit research is available on the Web at http://www.indiana.edu/~kines/trials2000.html
"We thought these new suits might improve performance times considerably because of predictions by the manufacturers on the state-of-the-art material and reduction in drag. If that was the case, our predictions would fail. Frankly, I was surprised by the lack of impact they had and even noticed less use of the new suits as the trials progressed. Because the new suits had little impact, I'm anxious to see what happens at the Olympics in Australia."
He will project the top times, as he did at the U.S. trials, to analyze the impact of the new suits in Sydney.
Stager said there has been considerable concern by coaches, athletes and scholars of the sport that the new swimsuit technology would alter the purity of swimming. "If the suits were effective, this could lead to the sport being driven by technology instead of commitment and training by the athletes," he explained.
Stager also said he was not surprised by the strong performance of older swimmers at the U.S. trials. He has directed studies that showed the average age for elite women swimmers increased 3.5 years from 1973 to 1992, and this trend is continuing today.
"It's simply not true that women swimmers peak in their teenage years," he said. His physiological testing shows that women peak in strength far after puberty. "American college-age and post-college women now dominate the sport, whereas years ago it was dominated by junior high school girls."
Stager can be reached at 812-855-1637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Prepared by Richard Doty)