In Olympian Swimsuits, Threads of History

By Correspondent, Jay Weiner | The Christian Science Monitor, July 3, 2008 | Go to article overview

In Olympian Swimsuits, Threads of History


Correspondent, Jay Weiner, The Christian Science Monitor


All the talk is technology. NASA was consulted. Records are falling like so much ticker tape at a gold medalist's victory parade. Then there's the lawsuit - which is not to be confused with the swimsuit.

Just about everyone here at the United States Olympic swim trials has been jabbering about what the candidates for the Beijing Games are wearing. For women, it's the full-body Speedo LZR Racer. For men, it can just be long-john-like tights. Swimmers are gushing about how it's making them faster, more-efficient missiles through the chlorine.

Speedo has shamelessly boasted in breathless releases about the depth of research - tapping everyone from the National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration to software firms - involved in creating the suit.

Mark Phelps, who kicked off the trials Sunday night with a world record in the 400-meter individual medley, wore the LZR bottom, but no top. "The suit really is amazing," said the six-time 2004 gold medalist. Indeed, through Tuesday night, 44 world records in swimming have fallen since Speedo introduced the suit in February.

Mr. Phelps, who is under contract to Speedo, said after his thrilling 400-meter victory: "It does give you that extra tenth or hundredth [of a second] that you need to break a record.''

The suit, seen as a major technological leap, is said to reduce drag. It has no seams; the three parts of the full-body suit are glued, not sewn, together. It is also constructed to compress the swimmer's core muscles, rather like a girdle, creating a more sleek object through the water.

But this shouldn't be solely a science discussion, says Bruce Wigo, CEO of the International Swimming Hall of Fame. As TV viewers watch this week's trials and next month's Olympics, they should be thinking about the threads of social history as much as the synthetic fabrics.

"[Swim] suits are a reflection of each period's social values,'' says Mr. Wigo, adding that evolution of swimwear speaks volumes about the development of the sport and, particularly, women's rights in and out of the pool. Wigo helped USA Swimming, the national governing body for the sport, put together an exhibit at "Aqua Zone," the swim trade show that's under way in the convention center wing of Qwest Center, where the trials are being staged.

The condensed version of swimwear history begins in ancient times when indigenous men around the world swam naked. Women, generally, weren't permitted to swim, Wigo says.

Fast forward to the Roman Empire, and the public baths became iconic centers of their own technology and architecture. But the baths would become dens of sexual activity, Wigo says, and the growing Christian world "looked at the baths as one of the primary reasons Rome fell. Nudity, swimming, and bathing became regarded as sinful.... For a thousand years, the Western world lost the art of swimming. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

In Olympian Swimsuits, Threads of History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.