Welcome To Square One On The Record Books
Craig Lord
Speedo scooped the pool, its LZR performance almost as dominant of that of Phelps. But by Rome 2009 technological explanations for big drops in standards will not apply

Speedo may be good enough to supply us all with their sales figures soon and tell us how the $1m was raised to pay the man his well-deserved fee for winning seven (that was the deal) of his eight gold medals at the Water Cube. I'm not holding my breath - but they have given us the scores on the board in terms of what the world wore on the way to producing a storm of records in Beijing.

  • 23 out of 25 world records set in the LZR Racer (92%)
  • 94% of gold medals 
  • 89% of all medals
  • Every event in men’s swimming was won by a man in the LZR.

 Not quite as dominant as Phelps - but not far shy of the perfect-storm result that the British suitmaker was after. Coaches and swimmers repeated ad nauseum that the sut is only as good as the swimmer in it. To a point (m'lud) that's true, of course and nothing could take away from the fact that those who excelled in Beijing have worked hard for their prizes. But hard work, talent, training, sports science and the myriad factors that go into cannot possibly account for all we have seen since February this year. Had we seen this kind of show in 1998-2000, or 1994 to 1996, the accusations of doping would have been legion. We know it to be true. 

More than 70 per cent of the gold medals won at the Water Cube fell in world-record times. The 25 world marks were the third-most in Olympic history, after the 28 at Munich in 1972 and 26 in Montreal in 1976. No records survive from the last millenium, the last to fall that of Janet Evans in the 800m, to Rebecca Adlington (GBR) in 8:14.10.

"You have to have the barrier breakers," said US coach Eddie Reese. "I remember the four-minute mile being broken, by the time the year was out, five or six people had done it." Quite, but half of the all-time top 100 from one year alone? Never seen before. Certainly not in the past 30 years. Through Nick Thierry, the stats are there. We know them. This year has been off the chart, wide and deep - watch for a final analysis wrap later this week. Stunning stuff.

There is debate about the effect of legs-only versions of the LZR and whether that is effective. Why? As in why the debate? Read up on what the effects are supposed to be. Then apply that to fatigue and body position in racing and what happens to swimmers who tire. Take a slice of the fatigue factor and you have an enhanced performance - and legs are a key part of the who issue of body position, efficiency at speed, balance and what happens when the rot sets in at the end of races.

Training methods have advanced and skills are spreading around the world like wild fire. That is also playing a part. The digital video age has brought analysis to the masses. Great for the sport. There are few in the fastest heats who are displaying sloppy skills. Some are still better than others =, of course. Sports science is doing its bit. Simplistically, blood tests measure lactic-acid build-up to aid in planning precision-performance in multi-event programmes. The ability to back up from blistering heats dictated by the topsy turvy programme in Beijing was critical to results. Phelps, Coughlin, Hoff, Trickett and others, all had big programmes - and different outcomes.

"I just don't think you can point to one factor, it's impossible," said Alan Thompson when asked to explain the fireball of new standards. "I think it's a factor of there's so many people there. Athletes know, 'if I've want to stay there, I've got to keep up'." That has always been the case, of course. Rome 2009 will tell us much more about he impact of the LZR - now that the world has tested it in the ultimate environment. The experiment is over. Welcome to back to the world where big advances cannot be put down to new technology. Square One.