If you wondered how much a difference a swimsuit can make, you only need to look at the case of Paul Biedermann.
Never heard of him? Neither had anyone else really until the German swimmer beat out Michael Phelps in the 200 meters at the World Championships in Rome last week.
Biedermann was wearing one of the new 100 percent polyurethane Arena suits while Phelps stuck with the last year's LZR Racer by Speedo.
Phelps' suit caused all the ruckus at the Olympics last year. Ever since, other swimsuit manufacturers have worked to improve upon that Speed technology. And FINA, the governing body of international swimming, approved the new suits which, to the ears of a novice, sound more like a wet suit than a swimsuit.
World records are falling and the sport is facing a serious image problem. Did you watch the United States National Championships at all on NBC earlier this month? During one of the races, a swimmer was going for a world record and fell short.
There was a loud, distinctive, disappointed "Aww" from the crowd.
Fans may be starting to want to see only world records, not just good races.
And there is more than just world records at stake but the fairness in the sport. As the guys at the Science of Sport blog explain, there is a problem with the distribution of the new technology. Swimmers are tied to endorsement deals with swimsuit companies. It really is the only way they make money. This is vastly different than say, cycling, where sponsorship opportunities range from helmets, jerseys, bikes to nutrition.
Technology affects sports across the board from equipment issues to the actual game (consider the advent of instant replay or the addition of media timeouts).
But reeling in the technology for swimming, or making it more accessible to all swimmers is something that needs to happen. Or else world records will be meaningless and only those from "rich" countries will be able to compete at an elite level.
Looking ahead at August, there are several area triathlons with opportunities to race, volunteer or just try out the sport.
This Saturday is the Wilson Wet & Wild Triathlon which features a sprint distance tri with a 600 meter swim, 20 mile bike and 4-mile trail run. For non-swimmers, there also is a duathlon. The event also features the Master Guru Kid's Tri for children ages 3-12. That includes a 60-meter beach entrance swim, a 1.5-mile bike ride through Tuscarora State Park and a half-mile run on grass through the park.
Next Saturday, Aug. 8, is the Riverside Federal Credit Union Summer Sizzler at Beaver Island State Park. This event is popular with first-time triathletes with a 400-meter swim that is mostly shallow, a 17K bike and a 3K run. This race also features the areas only Formula 1 race where competitors do the course twice. A duathlon with a 3K run, 17K bike and 3K run also is available as is a Kid's Tri with a 25 meter swim, 3K bike and 1K run.
And speaking of kids and triathlon, the Buffalo Triathlon Club will host a free youth triathlon clinic on Aug. 23 at the soon-to-be-opened Tri Spot Multi-Sports store on Transit Road in Williamsville. The clinic, for kids ages 8-15, will be held from 8 a.m. to noon with instruction in swimming, biking, running and transition. Athletes must have their own bike and helmet and should also bring a swimsuit and sneakers. Lunch follows at no charge. Parents can register online at at buffalotriathlonclub.com.
Finally, for those who like to go off-road, the Xterra race will be held Sunday, Aug. 16 at Holiday Valley. The Xterra Distance race has a 1500 meter swim, 17 mile mountain bike ride and 5-mile trail run while the Sport Distance has a 750 meter swim, 10 mile mountain bike and 2 mile trail run. There also is a duathlon and a 1-mile kids race.