Speedo's Fastskin suit mimics a shark's dermal denticles, V-shaped ridges that lessen drag by directing water flow away from the body. Adidas' version uses a compression Lycra that, the company claims, minimizes muscle vibration. Swimming's international governing body has ruled the suits do not enhance performance, and they can be worn at the Olympics. Tom Malchow, for one, will be wearing one. The 1996 Olympic silver medalist smashed the world record in the 200-m butterfly in one of the suits earlier this month. No wonder USA Swimming's Charlie Snyder predicts "a massive dressing room-like situation after the team is selected, with all 52 members trying on different versions of the suit." Perhaps athletes are like models after all.
Usually when swimsuits create a stir, they're barely draping the likes of Tyra Banks. But the latest poolside controversy centers on a garment that can cover a swimmer from neck to ankle. The suits, made by Speedo, Nike, Adidas and Tyr, are believed to improve speed. That didn't stop USA Swimming, the sport's national governing body, from banning them last week from the U.S. Olympic trials in August. It was concerned that the 1,200 or so competitors did not have equal access to the suits.