Caeleb Dressel Comes Up Shy of Sub-20 Effort In Outlawed Speedo LZR Bodysuit (Video)

Caeleb Dressel Speedo Sub 20 promo (photo: Mike Lewis)
Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS

Caeleb Dressel Comes Up Shy of Sub-20 Effort In Outlawed Speedo LZR Bodysuit

Caeleb Dressel, swimming in the Speedo LZR Racer, originally outlawed in the United States on October 1, 2009, tackled the sub 20 in 20 challenge this week in California in an attempt to see how fast he can go in one of the fastest swimsuits of all-time.

On attempt 1, Dressel swam a 20.41, off his best time of 20.16 from the International Swimming League Grand Final last month which stands as the official world record. On attempt 2, he was a 20.42, which may be slightly disappointing to swimming fans who expected Dressel to cruise under 20 seconds in the race. But as noted by host Elizabeth Beisel, who broke out her Olympic racing suit from the 2008 Games, it took a lot of stroke adjustment at the time to fully equip yourself in the bodysuit.

“The suit doesn’t make the swimmer. The swimmer makes the suit,” Dressel said at the end of the attempts.

Caeleb Dressel

Caeleb Dressel in his personally-designed suit. Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS

“I had to change a couple of things like my body position. It felt really, really good – but I’ll say this; nothing is guaranteed and the suit doesn’t make the swimmer, the swimmer makes the suit.

“I got up and I raced tough, I wouldn’t change anything about it.” When asked if he’d take the challenge on again he replied;

“Oh I would 100% do it again. It’s not about going as fast as you can all the time, it’s about learning from the sport and I think that’s the most important thing I can take away from today.”

Speaking about the event, Rob Hicking, brand director at Speedo, said: “When we first came up with the idea for this challenge we knew it was going to be really difficult to beat 20 seconds as there’s a reason nobody has ever broken that barrier – but we wanted to see how fast humans could go in water if unrestricted. It’s in our brand DNA to take risks and see how far we can push the limits of the sport.

“We had an amazing partner for the event in Caeleb – credit to him for putting himself out there, having some fun and exploring what was possible. Whilst the Sub 20 barrier remains, he is still the fastest man the world has ever seen and we can’t wait to see what Caeleb can achieve in 2021 and beyond.”

Although not an official time, Dressel’s swim is the second fastest 50 freestyle done in a bodysuit behind Roland Schoeman’s 20.30 from the 2009 South African Nationals, which stood as the world record for five years before it fell to France’s Florent Manaudou in 2014.

Watch Caeleb Dressel’s attempts below:

The swim was in celebration of the Fastskin series that was launched 20 years ago ahead of the 2000 Olympics and ushered in the super-suit revolution that downed records the world over. Launched ahead of the 2008 Olympics, Speedo’s LZR challenged other swimsuit companies to rise to their level in swimsuit technology, and in 2009 swimmers were wearing bodysuits that were exponentially faster than any suit before them.

There were 43 at the 2009 World Championships in Rome alone before FINA outlawed bodysuits from 1 January 2010, only allowing male swimsuits to be worn below the belly button and above the knee, and women’s suits to not extend past the shoulders or beyond the knee.

Caeleb Dressel was 13 when the ban was imposed and never experienced wearing them in competition.

Dressel’s coach Gregg Troy said the suit “allowed athletes to expand what they thought was possible in the pool.

“It helped athletes know more about body position, controlling speed and the importance of a strong core.

“It broke through the glass ceilings over the sport.”

Troy at times uses the suits in training with Dressel having worn one for some swift fly racing in practice, the benefits clear.

Dressel told Swimming World before his record attempt:

“It feels good: there’s no way around it, it does feel good.

“You feel buoyant: the most important thing about swimming is that you want to be as high in the water as you possibly can. You’re high in the water, there’s less drag, you’re going to be faster. It’s just how it works.

“It felt good, I felt buoyant. I felt sweet. I felt like the man to be honest. It actually felt like it was a super-suit.”

History of the Speedo LZR Racer


Michael Phelps wearing the Speedo LZR in 2009. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In early 2008, Speedo launched the LZR Racer, the world’s first fully bonded, ultrasonically welded swim suit.

Below are some excerpts from stories written in 2008 about the Speedo LZR Racer swimsuit that tore up the record books before and after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

“It’s true I’ve never worn a faster suit than we’re about to wear,” Michael Phelps said in an interview with USA Today ahead of the launch in 2008. “It’s definitely going to change a lot of records in the record books.”

“To know you’re going to be in the best technology out there gives the athletes that little edge,” Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman said in 2008 ahead of the launch. “And that’s what you need sometimes in the Olympic Games. The margins of victory are small.”

Speedo claims this product has 10% “less passive drag” than the Fastskin launched before the 2004 Olympics. The ultra-lightweight fabric is water repellent. Welding allows a seamless fit. The LZR is the first suit Speedo developed with NASA.

Natalie Coughlin wearing the LZR in 2008. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“It’s like a spacesuit,” Phelps said. “When people are traveling through space, they’re going ridiculously fast. That’s what it feels like to me.”

“I remember the first time Michael dove into our diving well at Michigan with the bodysuit on. It seemed that he went across the pool like a torpedo,” Bowman said.

Aerospace engineer Steve Wilkinson at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, played a role in developing the swimsuit by testing dozens of fabrics in Langley’s 7-by-11-inch low speed wind tunnel.

Warnaco Inc., the U.S. licensee of the Speedo swimwear brand, approached Langley to test fabric samples because the NASA center has researched drag reduction for aircraft and boats for decades. Just as reducing drag helps planes fly more efficiently, reducing drag helps swimmers go faster.

Studies indicate viscous drag or skin friction is almost a third of the total restraining force on a swimmer. Wind tunnel tests measured the drag on the surface of the fabrics. Speedo’s research and development team, Aqualab, took the results and used them to help create advanced “space-age” swimsuit designs.

The SPEEDO LZR RACER® has 10% less passive drag* than Speedo’s FASTSKIN FSII (launched in 2004) and 5% less passive drag* than Speedo FS-PRO (launched in March 2007) and has seen swimmers break 21 World records as a result.

Made from an ultra lightweight, low drag, water repellent, fast drying fabric, unique to Speedo, called LZR PULSE, the LZR RACER is the world’s first fully bonded swimsuit that is ultrasonically welded and gives the effect of no seams at all.

Ultra low drag LZR Panels are embedded into the base fabric to create a ‘Hydro Form Compression system’ helping to compress the entire swimmer’s body into a more streamlined shape and enabling them to cut through the water with more power and agility.

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1 year ago

But all the poliuretano’s swimsuits from other companies were much efficient than LZR in 2009.

1 year ago

Meh. Slower than his own WR. The least Speedo could have done was put a competitive field together in the same pool so CD had something closer to race conditions. A solo time trial, outdoors in California wasn’t likely to end in a sub-20 time. That said, it just shows how good his WR actually is and how hard the 20s barrier is to break.

1 year ago

James Bainbridge 100% agree

1 year ago

Should have given him some competition, everyone swims faster with someone next to you.

1 year ago

Georgie O’Hare

1 year ago
Reply to  Lydia Frazer

Lydia Frazer hectic

Randy Smith
1 year ago

He needs competition

1 year ago

What did u expect? The guy isn’t rested, just came out of the ISL season, probably extremely tired. 20.40 is awesome in that case.

1 year ago
Reply to  Leonard Posa

Leonard Posa my thought exactly. Different story tapered & prepped for a ”A-priority” race.

1 year ago
Reply to  Leonard Posa

Nichlas Westerlund yeah, no doubt he would break the 20 barrier.

1 year ago

Good news……at least we don’t have to read about this ‘non legal’ effort everytime a legal record is set….??

1 year ago

When C.D swam 17.63 (stroke count 8/11), he didn’t have/need the “suit tech”

1 year ago
Reply to  Ja Bounce

that was yards, not meters