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Ho Hum, Another (5 for 11) World Swimming Record(s)

Jul 27, 2009  - Craig Lord

Overview of a day when suits made a mockery of the term “swimming” at the 13th surfing and gliding world championships in Rome

The headline on the agency "breaking news" flash beaming to media outlets around the globe from the Foro Italico in Rome said it all about the 13th world swimming championships: "Ho hum, another world swimming record". 

Five more efforts 10 to 20 years ahead of their time last night took the tally to 11 in two days - and 146 since February 2008.  The second day ended with a stunning but damning indictment of the sad suits saga: Ariana Kukors, who finished third in the 200m medley at US trials last month and only made it into the race Rome because one of her teammates chose to concentrate on another event on Monday, claimed the world crown in 2mins 06.15. 

Just 18 months ago, only one woman had ever broken 2mins 10, and that was Wu Yanyan who followed up that 1997 effort with a positive drugs test that removed her from the sport. 

Kukors was travelling at the speed of Steve Furniss when the man who would go on to found TYR clocked a world 200m medley record for men back in 1974.

Kukors was a 2:11 swimmer in a TYR at US trials. In a Jaked, she wiped 4.35sec off her 2008 best time, via a 2:07.03 in the semi-finals in Rome, which was 1.42sec inside the world record set in a LZR last year by Olympic champion from Australia, Stephanie Rice, who last night clocked the same 2:07.03 mark for silver. 

Both Kukors and Rice wore the Jaked01 suit, which tonight was singled out for silent protest as swimmers decided to black out the logo.

 An American source at the Foro Italico said: "We're noticing a trend from kids, many who aren't sponsored and don't have to, that they are putting a black marker to the Jaked logo on their suit. It seems that, much like a drug habit you can't break, they hate the pusher but need the drug." It is not the first time that suits have been likened to props of the digestable kind, double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington (GBR), sticking with her LZR in order for her efforts to be comparable with 2008, having spoken last week of her wish to avoid donning a suit that would be tantamount to taking doping. 

Paul Biedermann told the German media today that he is not only suited for success but he is a clean machine forced as he was to deny that he has ever taken a performance-enhancing substance. The 6sec drop in his best 400m time was all down to hard work and the suit (which accounted for about 2sec, he thought).

Not a bad idea that, to mark the brand with a X as a silent protest against the use of suits that bring the sport of swimming into disrepute, regardless of whether they are “legal” or not.

The other world records were equally as stunning as they were meaningless, sadly for the protagonists. At 15 and from Sweden, Sarah Sjostrom and an X-Glide won the 100m butterfly crown in 56.06 ahead of six other women inside 57sec a little over a year since the sport boasted just one sub-57sec swim ever, that of Inge de Bruijn, 2000 Olympic champion. 

Australian Brenton Rickard and his Jaked01 claimed the 100m breaststroke title in 58.58 and American Rebecca Soni and her Jaked01 wiped out the third of only six world records remaining from the era of textile suits, with the first sub-1:05 effort, a 1:04.84, in the semi-final of the 100m breaststroke. Anastasia Zueva (RUS) wiped out Kirsty Coventry (ZIM) and her world record with a 58.48 blast. 

Tonight at a Roman circus that we predicted would be a world shampionships - and so it is turning out to be - a source told The Times that FINA was set to postpone a 2010 suits announcement, due Tuesday, until Wednesday, as it tussled with Speedo's demands to have full legs left in textile suits for a further year, against the wishes of 168 nations demanding a cut back to shorts for men and shoulder-strap to above-knee for women from the start of next year.

SwimNews understands that the new FINA President, after having heard of the latest demands by the maker of the LZR, shrugged and uttered words to the effect that: Congress has spoken, we will deliver.

Among athletes, few really believe in prolonging the circus. ''A lot of the athletes in the back were just saying this is crazy,'' Dara Torres said. A Britain team source told SwimNews: "It's crazy. The whole squad is wandering around saying 'remember when a world record meant something, when there was a buzz and the hairs stood up on the back of your neck?' This is making a mockery of the sport. We are all sick and tired of the suits."

After Ian Thorpe’s mark had been felled, coach Bob Bowman noted: ''I hope we don't forget Ian Thorpe now that he's not on the record board. He really revolutionized the sport in the last 10 years. Michael kind of picked up where he started and carried on.''

Tomorrow, Phelps faces Paul Biedermann and his new-found speed in the 200m freestyle after the German set a European record of 1:43.65 to claim lane four and become the second-fastest man ever. 

The new all-time top 10, with new entries after heats and semis in Rome:

  • 1:42.96 Phelps USA
  • 1:43.65 Biedermann GER
  • 1:44.06 Thorpe AUS
  • 1:44.85 Park KOR
  • 1:44.89 VD Hoogenband NED
  • 1:44.95 Walters USA
  • 1:45.09 Isotov RUS
  • 1:45.14 Vanderkaay USA
  • 1:45.31 Lobintsev RUS
  • 1:45.45 Uchida JPN

If in the 200m final the German can wipe away half of the number of seconds that he wiped off a race double the length yesterday, then Phelps and his LZR may well be fodder for Biedermann and his X-Glide. Times will tell in this new rather ugly sport of sliding and gliding.