Japanese Long Course Nationals: Situation of Swimsuit Issue in Japan

By Hideki Mochizuki, Swimming World Japanese Correspondent

HAMAMATSU, Japan, April 17. SWIMSUITS are becoming a hot topic again in Japan.

The Japanese Long Course Nationals are where national team members are selected, but they have also become the place where swimsuit brand are working to promote their new lineups.

Aasics, Mizuno and Arena each have their own promotion booths setup at the Expo area introducing their statement products to the assembled athletes. Aasics has introduced the Top Impact Line, while Arena is promoting its Aqua Force Lite. Additionally, Mizuno has the SST showing a big picture of recently-contracted Federica Pellegrini in the booth.

Compared to the nice setup of each of the booths, there is an anxious feeling spreading among swimming circles in Japan about the result of suit applications done by the March 31 deadline. The Japanese swimming community is anxiously awaiting the results of these allowed suits to be published by FINA.

On top of the top brands, several more individual brands have made a debut in the Japanese market since last year using the Yamamoto Corporation's material known as "Bio Rubber." This material is now being used by Blue70, TYR and about a dozen other swim brands.

Here is a summary of the Nikkei article on Feb. 25 about a Yamamoto Corporation press conference:

– Yamamoto Corporation announced February 24 that more than 15 swim brands decided to use its material, Bio Rubber Swim to their swimwear such as Arena and TYR.

– Right now, order for this material for 80,000 units of swim suits were being made.

The company boasts that it owns more than 90 percent of the market share in triathlon suits globally. Today, we see pretty much five brands competing for space on the block in Japan. Mizuno, Speedo, Aasics, Arena and local brand KOZ.

On the other hand, as Swimming World reported last year before the Beijing Games, the Japanese Swimming Federation has contracts with three brands (Arena, Mizuno and Aasics) to provide suits to national team members. Under this current contract, Speedo products are not allowed.

This issue caused a firestorm last year prior to the Beijing Games because athletes wanted to wear out-of-contract brands, including the Speedo LZR Racer. Thus, the Federation made the decision to have an exception for the Beijing Olympics. Kosuke Kitajima was one of the strongest examples of the exemption as he chose to wear Speedo en route to a pair of gold medals.

As of today, the Japanese Swimming Federation is undecided on what to do heading into Rome on whether it will allow out-of-contract brands again. Coaches and swimmers want to wear what they want to wear, but the situation is that everyone is still waiting on the results of the swim suit applications done by the FINA-imposed March 31 deadline. That will also allow the Japanese Swimming Federation to move forward with its deliberations.

Like we have seen in global tendencies, the benefit of the fast suits in competition is just astonishing. In Japan's Junior Olympics meet from March 27-30, we witnessed a total of 145 new records:
National Short Course Primary School record: 12
National Short Course Junior High record: 27
National Short Course High school record: 16
Meet record: 90

Some of the new records are incredibly fast – really fast. The national short course junior high school record in the men's 400 IM now stands at 4:10.49 by a 14 year old. The Men's 100 breaststroke record is not 1:00.11 by a 15 year old.

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