Michael Phelps: Olympians’ swimwear works in water and with the ladies

Photo courtesy Speedo

Photo courtesy of Speedo

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 14, 2004

Michael Phelps may not have matched Mark Spitz’s record seven gold medals, but the Olympic swimmer has him beat hands-down when it comes to style.

The 19-year-old — who won six gold and two bronze medals at last month’s Olympic games in Athens — set tongues wagging when he competed in Speedos that rode down so low on his hips they made Britney Spears’ outfits seem demure by comparison.

Which begs the question — just how do those trunks stay up when he’s swimming at mach speed?

“They’re pretty form-fitting so there’s really no fear of them slipping off his body,” says Craig Brommers, Speedo’s vice president of marketing. “The fabric is a lycra/nylon combo. I wouldn’t suggest that the average Joe swimmer wear them that low, because it does take getting used to. But Phelps likes them.”

Laughing, he adds, “It certainly created a buzz among female spectators.”

Um, yeah.

The teenage girls attending “Disney’s Swim With the Stars” tour have been screaming as much for the way Phelps and fellow Olympians Ian Crocker and Lenny Krayzelburg look as for their awesome abilities. The tour makes a stop tonight for two sold-out shows at the John B. Norris Recreation Center in west suburban St. Charles.

Aesthetics aside, there’s a reason why the swimmers at Athens only wore traditional briefs (like the kind Spitz wore at the 1972 Olympics) during warm-ups and preliminary races. The technologically advanced material used today allows swimmers to go faster the more their body is covered — with the right material, that is. Speedo — which supplies Phelps’ swimwear — creates suits with V-shaped dermal denticles to mimic sharkskin so water flows over the body more efficiently.

Brommers points out that while Phelps and his teammates choose to wear their suits down low on their hips, the more discreet recreational swimmer can wear the same suit with the waistband pulled up higher.

But before you run out and get a pair, remember that while you can buy high-end Speedos (which range from $180 to $400), duplicating Phelps’ physique is a whole different story.

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