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Biedermann: 'I Feel Like A Naked Snail'

Aug 6, 2010  - Craig Lord

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Paul Biedermann feels like a "naked snail" now that his shiny suit shell has been removed, and he suggests that the only way to make swimming attractive is to pour back into the race pool the banned plastic fantastic on which he relied to win two world titles last summer, according to a report in Germany's Bild today. 

The star of the German team trawled through the things he has had to do to cope with the loss of suit and a return to textile jammers and briefs, the latter of the kind of cut worn by the legendary Michael Gross: he's lost 4kg, he's worked on legs, arms, core strength, breathing (the sort of things that swimmers have done for generations - Darnyi, Baumann, Davis, Biondi, Popov, Perkins, Hoffmann and Co, bread-and-butter pain that is part of the staple of champions, Biedermann included).

Biedermann then concludes that there will be no world records in Budapest at European titles next week, with racing showing just how far away the world of swimming is from the standards set in shiny suits last summer. The article in Bild then concludes with the swimmer saying that if the sport wants to remain attractive, then it must have records - and the only way to do that is to bring the suits back. 

We can only assume that the tabloid ran out of space and chopped the swimmer's thought short in keeping with the switch back to less material cover. For this is what he said last summer the morning after felling Michael Phelps on clock and in water over 200m freestyle:

"I feel fine with the FINA result [suit decision] and I also agree with Bob Bowman and I don't have a problem with having my world records marked ... it would be really good to do that." What of the move by Bowman and Phelps to boycott all further international competition until FINA gets it right on suits? "When Michael Phelps is really doing that, FINA should react. It is the hammer [he hit his hand down like a hammer, but "der hammer" in German means "its great"]. When the best swimmer in the world says that, that's amazing. It's really great." Asked about world records and what to do about them repeated: "It would be fantastic to mark them in some way."

Quite so. The only way to get records back is not to bring back the suit, as everyone in the sport knows. There are two other options (at least): wait a while (and that could be many years in some cases) or draw a line that follows precedent set by FINA many, many years ago and on a few occasions in its 102-year history. If FINA had drawn a line, a standard time equivalent to the world marks as of January 1, 2008, when it brought in its ban on shiny suits and bodysuits on January 1, 2010, there would no longer be an issue (no shiny record would be removed or dishonoured, it would simply reflect the moment in which it was set under prevailing rules)  - and Cesar Cielo (BRA) would be the hero of the hour as the man not recognised for a 20.91 he knows he cannot get to on his own but the world record holder on a phenomenal 21.55 that got past the 21.64 of a towering giant of the sport of swimming, Alex Popov. That's swimming. Pure and simple.

FINA is committed to no change on current suit rules until after London 2012 at the earliest. Biedermann's best shot at Olympic gold may well be in London (he be 29 by the time Rio gathers the world's sporting elite for Olympic business once more). First stop on the way to the British capital -where Michael Phelps, most golden Olympian of all time, will deliver his Olympic swansong if all goes to plan - is Budapest in textile jammers, Margaret Island next week a fine time and place for Biedermann to put his Roman conquests to rest and look to the future that will require him to step up as a swimmer (which he is more than capable of doing), not a swimmer in a suit. 

Biedermann, who turns 24 Saturday (many happy returns of the day Mr Biedermann), enters the 200m and 400m free as favourite to retain and gain the European crowns, and not only because of Rome. Here was a world-class swimmer making solid and steady progress through the ranks before he and Germany was disadvantaged in 2008. Then came 2009.

Many are the times that Biedermann has supported a stand for Fair Play - and he knows that the only honest way forward for the sport is without props that work better for some than others, depending on morphology, physiology and the like. 

In Rome, coach Frank Embacher put 0.7sec a length down to the X-Glide. Assuming Biedermann has made natural progress, times of 1:44 (just inside Thorpe at best) and 3:44/45 would be spectacular, particularly so if wrought out of tight racing, the heat of battle. Take your marks (euros and dollars) ...