Is Swimming Becoming a Rich Man’s Sport?

Guest editorial by Nancy Brown

PHOENIX, Arizona, June 9. HAVING just returned from YMCA Nationals where I saw more than 100 records broken, I felt compelled to write this article.

Most of the records broken were done by people wearing the Blueseventy suit, the newest suit designed to help make the swimmer go faster. And it worked! A friend of mine came up to me after purchasing a Blueseventy suit at the meet and excitedly exclaimed, "Nancy, I can't believe how fast I am swimming!!!! I just dropped 6 seconds off my 200 IM time! These suits are incredible!"

Yes, they are incredible for those that can afford to buy them. But how many people can afford $300-500 for a suit (a Blueseventy or SpeedoLZR) that could possibly last for one meet or, if you are a lucky, a year?

I also saw a swimmer get beat by hundredths of a second in a 50. She was wearing a 3 year old Fastskin, her competitor was wearing a Blueseventy. It was painful to see her disappointment after training all year for that one special event. Did she lose because of the new technology suit her competition was wearing? Who knows, but after what I saw throughout the four days of competition where people wearing these suits were doing lifetime best times and 100s of records were being broken, I would have to say, yes.

What we have now in swimming, are the haves and have nots – people who can pay for these expensive suits and have the edge over the ones who can't, the have nots. This is not only affecting Masters swimmers, but it is also affecting swimmers of all ages.

I had a single parent come up to me after spending lots of money to attend the age group YMCA Nationals with her child, money that probably should have been spent on daily expenses. She was really upset for her child because of his disappointment due to the fact that he was being beat by people he would normally beat except for the fact that he didn't have a high tech suit on. Are we going to discourage our younger swimmers who can't afford these suits? Is it fair to the younger "have nots" who are trying to get a college scholarship through their swimming ability but are beaten out by the "haves"?

And how about the college teams who can't afford to provide high tech team suits when their competition can?

I wonder how Mark Spitz's times would have been if he had worn a high tech suit? Are we interested in records that are accomplished by a swimmer's ability and hard work in the pool or by records produced by a high tech suit? Are these suits giving the swimmer an advantage like steroid use did in the past?

Once again, it appears that money has taken over yet another area of our lives.

I suggest that we make the playing field in swimming fair again. All competitors should have a fair chance of doing their best in competition. Make the suits affordable so that everyone can buy them or don't allow them.