When we saw Michael Phelps dive into the pool at the Beijing National Aquatics Centre during the 2008 Olympics, we all wondered whether he came from another planet. Phelps eventually won eight gold medals in those Olympics, beating Mark Spitz’s previous record.
The Baltimore Bullet amazed everyone with the power of his strokes and kicks at the start. His physical features, his training method or his unusual diet (12,000 calories per day!) were the main keys to his success. You probably aren’t aware, however, that Phelps also had another ally. This ally was no secret, and was in plain sight. It’s not what you think: it’s his swimsuit.
Swimsuits have a great impact on the results obtained by swimmers, as they can hinder or streamline their movements. During the Olympics, the brand sponsoring Phelps, counted on an unexpected help: aerospace engneers helped design the 100 %-polyurethane swimsuit, which compressed Phelps body and made it more hydrodynamic.
Wind tunnels and fluid analysis techniques used in aircraft design helped create the perfect swimsuit by reducing friction and water resistance. This enhanced gear was designed to break records, but was also controversial. All swimmers wanted to use it, so it was eventually banned from competitions in 2010. Apparently, those who said Michael was a bit of an alien weren’t that far off the mark.