Speedo on the Fast Track to Tokyo
Speedo looks to make waves at the Olympic Games this summer with the debut of the company’s next generation Fastskin swimsuit. In an innovation journey that spanned four continents over the course of three years, including 330 swimmers, 200 prototypes, 30 swim clubs and 15 coaches, the new suits are guaranteed to “light up the lanes” in Tokyo, according to Speedo brand manager Jonny Higham.
The Speedo team also worked with external partners to gain expertise from different fields. Execs reached out to the Natural History Museum in London to replicate the science of sharkskin, tapped into Formula1 racing and even connected with a company that paints transatlantic ships to learn more about how to deal with drag.
Reducing drag is critical to advancing performance, explained Dr. Rob Blenkinsopp, head of R&D at Speedo’s Aqualab, who presented along with Higham during a recent Speedo online event. Designers need to consider “form drag” — the shape of the body as it moves through water, and “skin friction drag” — how water moves over the surface. Blenkinsopp shared that you want to compress the body shape to reduce drag and you want to create fabric texture that will reduce skin friction.
The new suits take advantage of smarter implementation of shark-inspired textures. For example, placement of textures occurs on the most curved areas of the body, the same way as sharkskin. The latest design and development thinking also puts more focus on increasing athlete comfort without sacrificing function, so that an athlete feels “one with suit.”
Two swimsuit “families” will showcase at the Olympics, featuring three new fabrics.
The LZR Pure Intent is designed for sprinters with “power, flex and fast” key to the design, showcased with enhanced shark skin texture material on the back of men’s suits and on the front of womens. Side panels are designed for increased flexibility, with compressive material for women in the core area, and compression in the legs for men. The men’s suits have power band technology on the back of the hamstring that connects to hips to amplify kick.
The LZR Pure Valor is for distance swimmers. The suits are lightweight, flexible, compressive yet comfortable, and most importantly, very fast. The women’s suits feature a new comfort strap; while a new comfort waistband debuts for the men. An added inner seam provides greater support in the legs.