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The Jagged Edge Of Jaked Results

Apr 3, 2009  - Craig Lord

In the welter of national championships of late, it is difficult to single out any as being outstanding in terms of the number of new national standards to have been set. Most nations are exceeding historic statistics right now - no question about it. One case, however, merits particular attention as FINA prepares to reveal the results of suit testing that will tell us what is in and what is out for Rome 2009.

Several observers at the Swiss nationals wrote to me highlighting what they regarded as an abomination at their national championships. Here is a taste of the view from the deck regarding the Jaked brand of suit, a wetsuit-rubber lookalike worn by the Italian national team, and, in the words of a head coach to one of Switzerland's leading swim clubs "about to spread out in the whole of Europe".

Here is what that coach, mirroring comments by others present at the meet in Switzerland, had to say about what he saw: "At Swiss Nationals 23 National records were beaten, all but one in the Jaked suits. We have witnessed finals with 8 finalists in the same suit (100 and 200 breaststroke women) with an average improvement of 4 seconds. In the following week another 11 national records at Short Course team Nationals were broken, all but one in the Jaked. The 400 IM record was bettered by 5 seconds, the best time of the swimmer from October last year by 10 seconds. 

"Now, I truly believe that some swimmers improved their abilities, but an improvement like this has not even occurred in the LZR.

"While "scientific suit testing" might give some results, the empirical facts of results with the Jaked suits are amazing: they are faster than anything else ever seen! Improvements of 1-2 seconds per 100 are nothing unusual, 4 to 5 seconds in the 200 is an average improvement, especially in 'fly and breaststroke. I have witnessed that totally untrained, overweight athletes have improved their best times by 5-7 seconds in the 200, one even setting national records. Some of these athletes beat long time national champions or medal winners. These suits will be used now in Denmark and more European competitions, records will tumble. 

"If this suit (and others!!!) is not immediately taken out of the swimming competitions before Rome, we will have unfair competition guaranteed."

Among observations of coaches in Switzerland (in their words):

  • speed seems to be higher short-course than long-course, peak speed after the push off  is probably the reason for this
  • the percentage of improvement seems to be more important in shorter disciplines
  • the "dying-off effect" seems to be diminished, with this Jaked suit you simply stay flat in the water even when you are totally dead. 
  • most swimmers noted after their huge improvements: "It was totally easy, I didn't die, it just kept going." The reason for this is probably that swimmers go out the race the way they have trained it for years before swimsuits came out, who clearly help flotation of the swimmers. If swimmers know how to race with this device, another big improvement can be expected.
  • definitely all suits, and especially this Jaked suit, seem to help some swimmers more than others, mainly average and poorly trained athletes benefit from this. The difference between great swimmers and average swimmers is diminished... and some times this difference even disappears...
  • so many national records devalue the performances of the hard-working swimmers. After a couple of national records, spectators and competitors did not even applaud for 5 seconds any more... Even the record-setting swimmers know that their performances were only possible due to the suit...

When the Speedo LZR was let out of the stable in February 2008, Italian head coach Alberto Castagnetti described it as "technological doping". Suit wars ensued, and Italy ended its contract with Arena because it needed to find a version of technological doping that would make its swimmers competitive. It opted for the Jaked suit. How perverse would it be for Italians at a home world championships to still be wearing a suit that is so clearly enhancing performance. Whether that happens is down not to Italy but to FINA. The international federations's post-March 31 decisions over the next couple of weeks will determine whether Italy, among others, must now seek alternative contracts for the new age to come.