By John Lohn
NEW YORK, February 12. A little reception to start. Some music. A few strobe lights. Give Speedo credit, it knows how to put together an unveiling. As part of a four-city reveal, Speedo took the cover off the LZR RACER during an event at ESPACE in New York City. The unveiling included the presence of several top names in American swimming, including the biggest of them all, Michael Phelps.
A jam-packed room at ESPACE was treated to a presentation that had Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Katie Hoff, Amanda Beard, Natalie Coughlin, Kate Ziegler and Dara Torres modeling the new swimsuit, which has been hyped by Speedo as fastest suit in the world. Speedo, celebrating its 80th year, is following up on the highly successful debut of the FS-Pro. That suit, which debuted at the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, helped produce 21 world records.
As part of the presentation, the aforementioned athletes discussed the suit and its various advantages. They were joined on stage by Mark Schubert, United States National Team Head Coach and General Manager, and Jason Rance, the head of Speedo's Aqualab, which utilizes sports science research and technology to develop its products.
Of course, the athletes spoke glowingly about the LZR RACER, which will be in action this weekend when the Missouri Grand Prix is held. Phelps indicated that he feels like a rocket coming off the wall. He also compared the three-piece suit, which is seamless due to the use of ultrasonic welding, to wearing a spacesuit. Makes sense considering NASA was part of the design and research process.
While some of the top professionals will wear the LZR RACER this weekend, material distributed by Speedo indicated that the suits will be available on a retail basis in May. The cost, according to the press packet, is expected to range from $290-$550, the higher cost for a full bodysuit. Among the highlights of the design, according to Speedo:
**The LZR RACER has 10% less passive drag than the FSII, which was released in 2004. Meanwhile, it has 5% less passive drag than the FS-Pro.
**The placement of the LZR panels reduce skin friction drag by 24% in comparison to the material used by the FASTSKIN. More, the ultrasonic welding allows for 6% less skin friction drag than a stitched or woven seam.
**Testing conducted on the LZR RACER indicated that the athletes have up to 5% more efficiency in regard to their oxygen intake. Testing also indicated that the athletes experience a 4% improvement in sprinting, starts and turns.
**The suit is ultra lightweight and water repellent and is put together to form a compression system that puts the swimmer's body into a more streamlined position.
Following the presentation, the athletes were made available for a media session in which they not only discussed the new suit, but also chatted about the coming year and the impending Olympic Games in Beijing. A few of the more notable items from the interview session:
**Katie Hoff has firmed up the majority of her program for the Olympic Trials. She'll contest both medley events, along with the 100, 200 and 400 freestyles. She'll also decide between the 800 freestyle and 200 backstroke for a sixth event.
**Scheduled to compete this weekend in Missouri in the 50 and 100 freestyles, Dara Torres is working her way back to form after a pair of surgeries. She first had a bone spur in her shoulder addressed late last year and recently had a meniscus tear remedied. Torres, attempting to qualify for her fifth Olympiad, said: As frustrating as it's been, I think the break has been a plus. It rejuvenated me.
**Ryan Lochte said he's still sorting out his schedule for the Olympic Trials, but look for the University of Florida product to compete in the 100 freestyle with the goal of obtaining one of the six bids to the 400 free relay. Lochte is also likely to enter both medley events, both backstrokes and the 200 freestyle.
**Club Wolverine coach Bob Bowman was in attendance, as he was part of the large team that collaborated on the new suit. Bowman and Phelps are keeping private the program Phelps will tackle in Omaha, but did say it was settled by last May, not long after Phelps' seven-gold medal performance at the World Champs in Melbourne.