So much for all those dire predictions of it taking many years, even decades, to break the swimming records set in high-tech bodysuits.
Nine world records fell at the London Olympic pool, two and a half years after the return to old-fashioned textile suits. That was a vast improvement from last year’s world championships in Shanghai, when only two swimmers set world records — Ryan Lochte of the United States in the 200m individual medley and Sun Yang of China in the marathon-like 1,500m freestyle.
“When they changed the sport, everyone started thinking that there won’t be another world record broken for a while,” Lochte said. “But I went out there and I changed that last year and Sun Yang changed it, too. So people started saying, ‘You know what? That’s possible. This can actually happen.’ And they started believing, and once you start believing, anything can happen.”
At the 2008 Beijing Games, 25 world records dropped — nearly all of them from swimmers wearing Speedo’s innovative LZR Racer bodysuit, which was designed with help from NASA. That was the most marks to fall at a single games.
43 marks at Rome
Then, at the 2009 world championships in Rome, an astounding 43 world records were established, as other companies like Arena and Jaked developed suits that were virtual flotation devices. While those numbers may never be seen again, more marks fell in London than the six at the 2004 Athens Games, when bodysuits were allowed but rubberized outfits hadn’t yet been introduced.
On Day one of the London Games, 16-year-old Ye Shiwen of China improved the world record in the women’s 400 IM by more than a second. While that swim sparked rampant speculation of doping, more records followed, from a variety of nations. Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa lowered the mark in the 100m breaststroke, Dana Vollmer of the United States did it in the 100m butterfly and Daniel Gyurta of Hungary established a new mark in the 200m breaststroke. Rebecca Soni, another American, set records in both the semifinals and final of the 200m breast and teammate Missy Franklin got one in the 200m backstroke.
On the final night of competition on Saturday, Sun broke his own mark in the 1,500 freestyle and the American women won the medley relay in record time. “Many people in the past were saying you had to go back to scratch and start from zero,” FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu said.
“This demonstrates that, at the end of the day, it’s the quality of the athletes and the preparation. These people are swimming 15-20 kilometres (9-12 miles) every day.”
“The 50 free is going to be tough to beat at 20.9. That’s certainly a challenging one,” Swimming Canada CEO and head coach Pierre Lafontaine said, referring to Cesar Cielo’s mark from 2009 in the one-lap race — the shortest in the pool. — AP