The old-school Speedo has given way to the LZR Racer suit

By Casey Olson, The Mirror

  • Friday, June 13, 2008 4:10pm
  • Sports

Indiana University’s Steven Murray is one of the few swimmers at the NCAA Championships to wear an old-school Speedo swim suit.

By Casey Olson, The Mirror

I’ve never been to Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Probably because I’m super weird, but for some odd reason, when I picture the Brazilian beach city, one of the first things that comes to mind is the Speedo swimsuit.

The small piece of stretchable, Spandex-type material, which resembles a dude’s brief-style underwear, is most often worn by competitive swimmers — thank goodness.

But, there have been occasions that overweight, hairy, old men have been known to don a Speedo — much to the chagrin of everybody else on the beach.

There were no overweight, hairy old men Thursday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center for the opening day of the 2008 NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Federal Way.

Far from it.

There also weren’t very many skin-tight, barely-there Speedos, much to my surprise. I came into the Aquatic Center thinking it would be like Rio de Janiero during Carnival. I expected the 235 swimmers who qualified for the prestigious event to be showing a lot more skin.

Because, I thought, nowhere else can men get away with sporting a very, very, very tight pair of shorts, as well as shaving their entire bodies. That’s just the way it is in the ultra-competitive world of swimming. The sport, without question, is one of the most grueling ever invented. You would think being in a huge pool of warm water would be very refreshing. Like during the summer months, nothing sounds more relaxing than jumping into a pool to cool off.

But after watching and hearing about the training regiment these elite-level college swimmers go through on a daily basis, I now have a new respect for them. A typical practice day during the season includes swimming a couple miles, as well as lifting weights and running.

So if anybody deserves to shave their bodies and wear Speedos, it’s these guys.

But they aren’t.

Most of the top athletes are now wearing bodysuits. The suits, which cover a swimmer’s legs and upper body, caused controversy from their genesis about a decade ago. Some argued the suits might break rules outlawing buoyancy. The international governing body for swimming gave the bodysuits the green light in 2000.

The newest craze in the bodysuit world is the brand-spanking new Speedo LZR Racer, a slick full-length swimsuit that boasts stabilizing supports to maintain body position, panels to give a streamlined shape and reduce drag, and a strong but light fabric to reduce muscle oscillation and skin vibration — Speedo’s words, not mine.

But there is no arguing that the new LZR suit is having an impact on the swimming world, and it’s the talk of the NCAA championships inside the King County Aquatic Center.

It seems like anytime an elite swimmer puts on this $550 bodysuit, records tumble. There have been 14 world records set since the middle of last month, and only one of the swimmers who set the record wasn’t wearing the new suit.

Speedo is not denying that the LZR Racer, which covers everything but the shoulder and arm areas, improves performance. Claims include a 5 percent cut in drag factor and also that compression elements somehow aid oxygen uptake by 5 percent. There is also the core stabilizer that acts like a corset in helping a swimmer maintain optimum position in the water.

As far as I know, there have been no claims like that about the “old-school” mini-Speedo, which covers only the “essentials.”

Massive sums of money are being poured into the technology of bodysuit development and top swimming officials are set to have talks with manufacturers next month after all the world records have been set.

Not only was the LZR Racer suit designed with help from NASA and its wind tunnels, but Speedo made sure that each step of the development process, including ultrasonically bonded seams — no thread and needle — was approved by FINA, swimming’s international governing body.

The new suits also have my approval.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Sports

Sports card fanatic finds a home at FW Farmers Market

Richard Davis, 87, sells sports cards from his 100,000 card collection at the farmers market each week.

Fall sports postponed for FWPS middle, high schools

The NPSL recently moved all Season 1 sports into Season 3 beginning in March.

Pictured: A Mercer Island High School swimmer competes in fall 2019. Washington Interscholastic Activities Association recently announced the girls swim and dive season will be moved to “Season 3,” which begins March 1. File photo
WIAA gives schools option to delay start of prep sports until December

An updated plan moves girls swimming to Season 3 and makes fall cross country an alternate season.

The Todd Beamer Titans football team in Federal Way during a 2019 summer practice. File photo
WIAA modifies prep sports calendar; football moved to spring

Washington’s high school athletics governing body announced its revised plans for the… Continue reading

WIAA delays start dates for fall sports

Football practices to begin Sept. 5, all other sports planned for Sept. 7.

Emerald Downs changes opening day to June 24

Live racing to return at Auburn track but without fans

Emerald Downs announces revised 2020 stakes schedule

Racing starts June 22; first featured race Aug. 2

Emerald Downs to open for horse racing June 22

No fans initially at Auburn track; fans can wager from home

FILE PHOTO, Brian Liesse, T-Birds
T-Birds issue ticket refunds, exchanges for cancelled games in Kent

17,000 tickets sold for three March contests at ShoWare Center

Decatur senior to bowl at collegiate level

Team captain and league MVP Ruth Magana signed her National Letter of Intent at home last week.

T-Birds select 13 players in Bantam Draft

Seattle trades goalie Roddy Ross to Regina for three draft picks

No-show season: WIAA announces cancellation of spring sports, activities

Due to the school closure extension, the cancellation includes all practices, competitions, tournaments and championships, WIAA says.