BLOOMINGTON Skin is not in.
Perhaps in an effort to reverse 20 years of smaller and still skimpier swimsuits, the women”s swimming world introduced its hottest fashion trend at the Big Ten Championship in Bloomington bodysuits.
This year was the first year that NCAA athletes were allowed to wear the special high-tech suits for competition, and the debut was impressive.
Virtually all of the finalists in the 50-yard freestyle Thursday wore the new wear, which was especially popular with butterfliers and sprinters.
The jury is still out on how much these “Fastskin” outfits effect people”s times.
Thinner than scuba or surfing wetsuits, the bodysuits are made of a light nylon-Lycra fabric that also cuts down water resistance.
Proponents claim that the suit”s tight fit constricts body fat and contributes to a more fluid path through the water.
“That is especially important in women”s swimming.” Wisconsin coach Erik Hansen said. “Because the girls typically carry a higher body-fat percentage and those suits hold their shape better.”
“As a fabric, the bodysuits are faster than skin,” Michigan coach Jim Richardson said.
“I really like it,” Michigan senior Jen Arndt said. “You don”t feel the burn at all, and you”re much higher in the water. That is especially helpful for me in the backstroke.”
But many coaches in the Big Ten are not convinced.
“Maybe I”m old school, but I think a fast swimmer will give you a fast swim,” Hansen said. “The suit has very little to do with it.”
And there are reported downsides to the suit.
Michigan co-captain Missy Sugar used the bodysuit at Olympic Trials, but chose a more traditional garb for this meet.
“They are really hard to get in and out of,” Sugar said. “Plus you need to keep them dry or they get really heavy. And I didn”t want to deal with that this weekend.”
“The breaststrokers especially don”t like them because it lifts their legs too much,” Emily Fenn added. “And almost no one wears them in the distance events, because the extra weight counteracts any good they would do.”
Illinois” Sue Novitski echoed the consensus of the Big Ten coaches by saying “each swimmer should use whichever suit makes them the most comfortable.”
Hansen sees this fad moderating in the future for one simple reason.
“They cost 250 bucks a pop.”