Dressed for a world record?

The question has been answered: "Shiny suit" swimming records can be broken. New world marks had been rare since the 2010 ban of the high-tech suits, deemed performance-enhancing, that let athletes to zip through the record books in Beijing. Between the ban and the London Olympics, only one world record had been broken in an individual event of 400 meters or less. While new world bests are not exactly raining down in London, the worst of the drought appears to be over.


The Barcelona Games were the last in which a majority of medals were won by men in tiny briefs and women in standard-looking one-piece suits.


Speedo introduces the Aquablade, a knee-length suit that reduces drag. It is worn by most medal winners in Atlanta.


Bodysuits debut, some with full sleeves. Speedo’s Fastskin is modeled after shark’s skin. A 2004 version claimed to reduce drag by an additional four percent.


Several manufacturers create nearly drag-free polyurethane and rubber suits that squeeze swimmers into a more streamlined shape.


Everyone in London will wear sleeveless textile suits that are knee-length or shorter.

  • '88
  • '96
  • '00
  • '08
  • '10
    • 0
    • –3
    • –6
    • –9
    • –12

      Time shaved off pre-1988 world record
      In seconds

      Bodysuits debut in Sydney

      Athens Olympics

      Beijing Olympics

      2009 World Championships

      See the frequency of world
      records during the era of each suit

      Each dot represents a new world record, and the lines connecting the dots show the drop in time between them. Click next to see how new swimwear technology impacted the records after 1996.


      Replay from beginning

      SOURCE: FINA, USA Swimming. GRAPHIC: Wilson Andrews, Bonnie Berkowitz, Bryan Flaherty, Todd Lindeman - The Washington Post. Published July 25, 2012. Updated Aug. 2, 2012.

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