Today’s athletes at the Olympics wear full body high-tech suits which create less drag and turbulence, allowing athletes to swim faster.
To reduce drag, water must be kept close to the body surface as long as possible. The swimsuits by Adidas, Speedo and TYR all try to alter water flow, moving it more efficiently along the swimmer’s body.
The Adidas JetConcept , introduced the concept of the full bodysuit in 1998.
Wearing the suit, Australian Ian Thorpe, set numerous World Records and won Olympic and World Championship titles. Believing that by helping to cut through the water, the suit performed like technical equipment, he worked with adidas in the development phase.
The bodysuit behaves much like an aircraft. Ribbed panels, modelled after the grooves found on a plane’s fuselage and wings, extend from the underarm to the lower back and cover the gluteus maximus, helping channel water fluidly over your back – reducing active drag and turbulences. The result is up to 3% increase in swimming performance, according to Adidas.
The Aqua Shift by TYR uses so called Tripwire Technology or latitudinal banding to mainly reduce turbulence created by the swimmer. Based on hydrodynamic theories and year long testing the overall drag reduction is 10% claims the company.
Speedo’s Fastskin FSII, was developed by analyzing the texture of shark skin and mimicking the tooth like scales. The suit designs were further refined with help of computational fluid dynamics software.