Swimmers and coaches welcome return to "skinny-dipping"

Tue Aug 17, 2010 8:51pm EDT
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By Gerard Wright

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - As with the European championships in Budapest last week, the Pan Pacific meeting starting Wednesday will be swum au naturel, or closer to it than any time in the past 15 years.

Swimmers, who live and die by split seconds, and their coaches say the change has not come a moment too soon.

"The people who broke world records in those suits were never credited, as they should have been," Australian coach Leigh Nugent said Tuesday.

"And the people whose records were broken were discredited, and it just wasn't good for our sport."

The suits, made of skintight polyurethane and neoprene, had the dual effect of compressing the limbs and trunk of the swimmer, reducing water resistance, while also improving buoyancy to increase speed.

They were shed from competition at the start of this year, after 43 world records were set at last year's world championships in Rome.

According to American team captain Jason Lezak, the suits rewarded, or at least kept competitive, the swimmer who did not train hard.

"Last year, I didn't train much and I wasn't in great shape and I still swam fast," Lezak told Reuters.   Continued...

<p>Fabien Gilot (C) of France, Andrey Grechin (L) of Russia and Marco Orsi of Italy are seen as they compete in the men's 50m freestyle semifinal at the European Swimming Championships in Budapest August 14, 2010. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay</p>