Smart swimming

Published on August 21st, 2012
Smart swimming

What does this fish have to do with the Olympic Games? Just ask the professional swimmers…

When it comes to competing at the Olympic Games, a split second can make the difference between a medal and a missed opportunity. Which is why the competitors will do anything they can (within legal limits, of course) to gain speed and reduce their time. And when it comes to professional swimmers, it’s all about the gear you choose to wear on the day… and the latest technology was inspired by a fierce, fast-moving fish called a barracuda.

Swim like a barracuda
With their long, streamlined bodies and super-smooth, scaly skin, barracudas don’t just look fast – they are fast. In fact, when they’re trying to overtake their prey, they can clock up to 43 km/h, thanks to their super-smart body design.

This year at the Olympic games, the latest in-the-pool athletic gear was inspired by these speedy salt-water swimmers. Don’t believe us? Check out Speedo’s new Fastskin3 swimsuits, which were designed to control the way the water flows around the body and to decrease the drag by compressing the athlete’s body so his or her shape is more similar to a barracuda’s.

How it works…
The smartness begins with the swimming cap, which was designed to fit the average human head with as little wrinkling as possible. Why? Because wrinkles increase drag, of course. The cap also has a space to pack hair at the back of the neck, filling the dip between the head and the back, which would otherwise create extra drag during a race. According to the scientists, just this simple gap-filler reduces drag by about 3,4%! The goggles are also designed to decrease drag by an extra 2,2%. That’s 6,6% and counting…

And then there’s the actual swimsuit, which compresses the athlete’s thighs, butt and chest (in the case of women) using built-in Lycra panels. The Fastskin3 suit is also designed to repel water, which helps the swimmer to move further with every stroke.

The bottom line? When you put all the pieces together, the entire outfit reduces drag by a whopping 16,6%, and increases the swimmer’s speed by about 0,11 percent. It doesn’t sound like much, but as we said, those few moments can make all the difference…