High Tech Swimsuits


1912 Olympic Swimmers
A group of swimmers from the
1912 Olympics. Photo courtesy
of the Library of Congress.  

 Since the first modern Olympic swimming events in 1896 there have been a lot of changes in the suits worn by athletes. From the development of synthetic fibers to more aerodynamic designs, with every Olympics it seems the humble swimsuit becomes more technologically advanced. Today, the swimsuits worn by Olympians are high-tech marvels, so much so it sometimes creates controversy.

The TYR Aqua Shift suit debuted for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The Aqua Shift used tripwires wrapped around the athlete’s body to reduce the drag effect water has on the body. This new fabric worked well—too well–and so it and any suits like it were banned from the Olympics as they gave swimmers too much of an advantage.

This is not to say that the suits worn today aren’t high tech. The suits are designed to fit the athletes like a second skin and to keep their body in the ideal swim position, all for the low price of around $550. Of course, it takes a lot more than a fancy swimsuit to beat the likes of Allison Schmitt, Ye Shiwen, and Michael Phelps.

On another unrelated note, we want to know if either you or a weaver you know are involved in preserving a textile tradition. If so, please write and tell us the story.

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