Rome 2009 Day 2:
Women's 100m backstroke semis
The fourth world record of the session and 10th of the championships fell in 58.48 to Anastasia Zueva (RUS) and an arena X-Glide. That's as fast as Roland Matthes was when the GDR legend set out on what remains a record run of 18 global standards in 1967. Of course, he was wearing briefs, which wouldn't be appropriate for young Anastasia. But who knows what FINA may come up with next.
The splits compared:
Gemma Spofforth (GBR) wore the LZR and clocked 58.74 to set the second-fastest time ever, inside the previous world record held at 58.77 by Kirsty Coventry (ZIM), fourth through into the final in 59.21, just behind Emily Seebohm (AUS), on 59.15.
The Florida-based Brit said that she would not swap it for one of the heavier poly numbers because the Speedo suit has greater compression factors that help to support heavier thighs. However, she added: "I still say that its the swimmer not the suit." What even on a night when seven women got inside 57 in a single 100m 'fly race? She shrugged and blushed a little but she could not bring herself to express what there can be no doubt about.
Suit wars have placed everyone between a rock and a hard place. Swimmers know that there is so much they have done right: hard work, dedication, preparation on race day, doing all the things that contribute to great performance and then they leap in and the clock pours a negative on the positives because few believe it to be real. Spofforth can compare her efforts with a year ago in Beijing, when she wore the LZR and admits to the unquestionable benefits of compression. Good for her.
While this sport is what it is, best admit to the truth. For those struggling to face up to it, they need to ask this: what will the swimmer say next year when the supports and props are gone? That they didn't work hard enough? That they are lazy? That they have fallen down on the job? No, the truth is that they will be slower by the margin of a suit. Which is why they are faster in Rome - by the margin of a suit.