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Thursday, June 28, 2012

What Swimsuit To Wear At The Olympics?

Maarten van der Weijden, the eventual Olympic 10km Marathon Swim gold medalist, faced a huge decision before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It had nothing to do with his strategy, his choice of hotel, his arrival date, his nutrition, how much to workout, when to taper, or when to do altitude training. Rather, his major decision centered on his choice of a swimsuit.

It was not even as easy as a choice between Speedo and TYR or between Arena and blueseventy. The decision involved something more.

His choice, frankly, was much more complicated and potentially financially risky. His national governing body was sponsored by one swimsuit company...but his first choice in a swimsuit was another manufacturer. When a national governing body is sponsored by a swimsuit company, it often receives not only swimsuits for its Olympic and national team members, but also uniforms and a variety of additional swag for its coaches, administrators, and junior national team members. The value-in-kind donation is generally worth a lot of money.

But with such donations, expectations are raised both explicitly and implicitly. From a commercial perspective of a for-profit company, if that company sponsors an entire nation's swimming program, then it is reasonable to expect that country's top swimmers will wear the company's swimsuits and uniforms. The company makes an investment in a program because it makes marketing and, ultimately, financial sense.

Realistically, this is a great win-win situation for both the company doing the donation (sponsorship) and the non-profit governing body involved as well as all the swimmers, coaches and administrators who are outfitted for free. Everyone gains. And as every athlete knows, wearing their country's colors and uniforms at international competitions instills profound pride.

For athletes of some countries like the USA, the swimmers received t-shirts, polo shirts, walking shorts, board shorts, hats, swimsuits, swim caps, ear plugs and a wide variety of other equipment, gear and goodies. For athletes in other countries, the donated items are much fewer in number.

However, the situation comes to a head when the swimmer wants to wear a swimsuit from a different company than the sponsoring company. Goggles are usually not a problem and the swim caps are usually not an issue because in international competitions, a 3-letter country code and/or country flag is required on the swim caps. The sponsoring company provides these mandatory swim caps.

So what does a swimmer do who wants to use a swimsuit by a competing manufacturer?

In many cases, the swimmer is free to choose what swimsuit they can wear. It is not the ideal situation for the sponsoring company or the administrators of the national governing body, but everyone realizes that the swimmer must be comfortable and confident in their choice of a swimsuit in order to perform well. But in some cases, the national governing body makes it a requirement and the athlete must abide by the situation.

Such is the situation that swimmers like South Africa's Jessica Roux and Troy Prinsloo may face in London. While they received a Speedo kit sponsorship that provides them with valuable Speedo gear and the latest Speedo FASTSKIN3 Racing System, Swimming South Africa is officially sponsored by Arena.

Decisions, decisions.

While Olympic marathon swimming gold medal favorite Keri-Anne Payne favors the Speedo FASTSKIN3 Racing System, there were surprisingly few top swimmers who are wearing the latest system by Speedo at the FINA Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier or at many Olympic Swimming Trials around the world. Touted by many of the world's fastest swimmers like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, it seems that its reach in the open water swimming world is less enthusiastic than expected.

But if Payne wears the System while winning the Olympic marathon swim, the initial tepid enthusiasm may boil over to a fever pitch.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source

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