Berthelot, G., Hellard, P., Len, S., Tafflet, M., & Toussaint, J. F. (2010). Technology and swimming: Three steps beyond physiology. A paper presented at the XIth International Symposium for Biomechanics and Medicine in Swimming, Oslo, June 16–19, 2010.

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This study aimed to quantify the gain provided by the 1999, 2008, and 2009 swimsuit generations. Data were collected from the yearly best performances of the first 10 world swimmers in 34 swimming events from 1990 to 2009. The number of significant values was then summed each year for both genders. The relative improvement or “gain” between the mean of the 10 best performances from one year to the next was computed for all years and all events.

Three variation peaks were observed in 2000, 2008, and 2009, which corresponded to the year of introduction of the generations of swimsuit. The first peak had a higher number of significant variations recorded for women vs. men (13 vs. 9). The second peak presented the highest number of variations, with equal progressions for men and women (13). The third peak showed nine variations for men and three for women. The mean gain values were: 0.74% ±0.26% (2000); 1.16% ±0.48% (2008); and 0.68% ±0.55% (2009) for men's events and 1.00% ±0.37% (2000); 0.97% ±0.57% (2008);and 0.27% ±0.70% (2009) for women's events.

Implication. The large impact of the first generation swimsuits (2000) on women's events suggests that compression of women’s bodies may have been a major factor reducing hydrodynamic resistance. The second generation swimsuit (2008) provided large gains for both men and women, while the third generation impact was less homogeneous: women showed a lower performance progression, while men experienced a relatively more improvement. With the recent introduction of regulated swimsuits, a rapid return to physiological thresholds is expected in 2010, which will be partially moderated by the introduction of new technology, such as starting blocks.

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