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A new swimsuit is shattering records—and unleashing debate
LZR is the new black
ATHLETES in the ancient Olympics competed in the buff, on the
grounds (among other things) that clothes were a hindrance to
performance. Modern technology, however, has changed that. In some
sports, notably swimming, the right costume can be an enormous boon.
Take Speedo's LZR swimsuit, which was introduced in February. Fully 38
of the 42 world swimming records that have been broken since then have
fallen to swimmers wearing LZRs. Indeed, some of those records have
been claimed by less-than-notable racers, suggesting that the
difference lies in the apparel, not the athlete.
To make the LZR four innovations had to come together. The first is
the fabric. The new suit is cut from a densely woven nylon-elastane
material that compresses the wearer's body into a hydrodynamic shape
but is extremely light. Moreover, there are no sewn seams. Instead, the
suit is bonded together using ultrasonic welding. Seams act as speed
bumps in the water. Ultrasonic welding removes 6% of the drag that
would otherwise occur, according to Jason Rance, the head of Aqualab,
Speedo's research-and-development centre in Nottingham in Britain.
Compared with Speedo's previous suit, which was used by numerous gold
medallists in the 2004 Olympic Games, the new material has half the
weight yet triple the power to compress the body.
Second, the suit has what Speedo calls an “internal core
stabiliser”—like a corset that holds the swimmer's form. As a swimmer
tires, his hips hang lower in the water, creating drag. By compressing
his torso, the LZR not only lets him go faster, because it maintains a
tubular shape, but also allows him to swim longer with less effort. In
tests, swimmers wearing the LZR consumed 5% less oxygen for a given
level of performance than those wearing normal swimsuits did.
Third, as a further drag-reduction measure, polyurethane panels have
been placed in spots on the suit. This reduces drag by another 24%
compared with the previous Speedo model. Fourth, the LZR was designed
using a three-dimensional pattern rather than a two-dimensional one. It
thus hugs a swimmer's body like a second skin; indeed, when it is not
being worn, it does not lie flat but has a shape to it.
The results are a suit that costs $600 and takes 20 minutes to
squeeze into, and a widespread belief among swimmers competing in the
Beijing Olympics this summer that they will have to wear one or fail.
The director of the American team, Mark Schubert, for example, thinks
the LZR improves performance by as much as 2%—a huge leap considering
that tenths of a second may mark the difference between first and
fourth place. Arena, a rival swimsuit-maker, called the situation
“unprecedented” and, initially, lobbied for a review of the garment
rules in an open letter to the sport's governing body, FINA (the
Fédération Internationale de Natation). Another maker, Tyr, has
launched another type of suit altogether. It is suing Speedo's parent
company, Warnaco Swimwear, Mr Schubert (for more or less insisting that
members of his team wear the LZR) and others on antitrust grounds. The
LZR is thus being referred to by some people as high-tech doping on a
Speedo's success is partly due to a subtle rule “clarification” made
by FINA in April which confirms that polyurethane areas can be
incorporated into racing swimsuits. Other manufacturers complain it is
unfair that a revision with sweeping implications took place only a few
months before the Olympics. Still, they are rushing to bring forward
rival products. On June 4th FINA approved new suits by Arena, Adidas
and Mizuno, so Speedo's technological lead may not last. In technology
as in sport, records are simply there to be broken.
Charles Barkley said Monday he will stop gambling, at least for
now, less than a week after acknowledging he owed a $400,000 debt to a
Las Vegas Strip casino.
"I like to go into Vegas, it's a fun
place, but you know what, I've got to stop gambling. That's the bottom
line," Barkley said during TNT's pregame show before Game 7 between San
Antonio and New Orleans. "I am not going to gamble anymore. For right
now, the next year or two, I'm not going to gamble."
The Wynn Las Vegas resort alleged in a civil complaint filed
Wednesday in a Nevada state court that Barkley failed to repay four
$100,000 casino markers, or loans, received last Oct. 18 and 19. Clark
County District Attorney David Roger said prosecutors would file a
criminal complaint if Barkley did not pay the debt.
Barkley thanked fans for being supportive and reiterated he had no financial woes.
have no, no money problems whatsoever. Nobody's coming after me for
money," he said. "I screwed up and didn't pay them. Could they have
handled it differently? Yes. But it was my fault."
talked openly about his gambling, estimating during a May 2006
interview with ESPN that he'd gambled away about $10 million over the
years. He always defended it by saying he had the money to lose, but
said Monday it was time for a break. He added he would try to do it on
his own without seeking help.
"Just because I can afford to lose money doesn't mean I should do it," he said.
Mikhail Youzhny lost a tough point with a backhand into the net against
Spain's Nicolas Almagro in the third round of the Sony Ericsson Open on
Tuesday. He then hit himself in the head with his racket, 3 times in a
sort of bloody Grand Slam. And he drew a lot of blood.
good thing was, it must have made an "impact" with him, as he bounced
back to win in a third-set tiebreaker. Too bad though: he lost in the
MIAMI - The Florida Marlins are looking for some footloose fat men. The National League team is creating an all-male, plus-size cheerleading squad to be dubbed the Manatees. Tryouts were scheduled for Sunday.
The team hopes to recruit seven to 10 tubby men to dance, cheer and jiggle during Friday and Saturday home games this season.
Real manatees, 1,200-pound mammals sometimes referred to as "sea cows," are not considered the most agile of creatures and often get caught in boat propellers.
The Marlins want their Manatees to have the same dimensions, but to be decidedly more agile. Men will be judged on how well they dance a choreographed routine.
The Marlins already have a cheerleading squad, the considerably more svelte Mermaids.
Men selected for the Manatees won't be paid. They'll get tickets to games they perform at, and the honor of dancing in front of crowds that have been smallest in major league baseball for the last two seasons.
The Marlins aren't the only pro sports team capitalizing on Americans' expanding waistlines. The
Chicago Bulls basketball team have the Matadors, a big-man dance troupe that's entertained fans at home games since 2003.
And although cheerleaders might be an unfamiliar site in baseball, big men aren't, as fans have long cheered on the likes of Babe Ruth and Kirby Puckett