SYDNEY, July 17. "SAY, who were those masked men in pantyhose?"
"Masked men in pantyhose Australia Commonwealth Games swimmers, kimosabe."
Yes, it's true. Australia's Commonwealth Games swim team, led by world champion Ian Thorpe, will fly to Europe this weekend armed with masks and wearing pantyhose to fight jet lag and circulation problems resulting from long flights with minimal movement.
The 41-member team, which is expected to dominate the Games, will fly out of Sydney and head for Germany on Friday wearing special masks called 'humidflyers'. The masks allow the swimmers to breathe in their own moisture in a bid to reduce dehydration during the 24-hour flight.
"When you're on a plane, you're breathing in a really dry environment and you dehydrate very quickly," Australian swimming high performance director Greg Hodge said on Wednesday.
"The mask captures the vapor that's normally lost in the air when you breathe, so you are breathing back in your own moisture basically.
"They're a clear mask that goes over the nose and mouth and they have a little bowl on the bottom which captures all the moisture. The more they wear them on the flight, the better they will be at the other end."
It seems a far cry from a previous generation of top Australian sports figures who drank enormous amounts of beer on flights to England in a bid to set new records of their own.
The swimmers have also been issued with special decompression pantyhose called "jet skins" to wear on the flight and at night after races to help with circulation.
"We're doing everything we can to overcome the effects of jet lag," Hodge said.
The Australia swim team will train near Stuttgart in Germany until July 28 when they will fly to Manchester, England three days after the opening ceremony.
Predictions have Australia winning about two-thirds of the 38 swimming golds on offer when the pool action starts on July 30.