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Britta Steffen Hydrofoils To 52.85 WR 100 Free

Jun 25, 2009  - Craig Lord

Britta Steffen has just donned the new adidas Hydrofoil (I kid you not) and skimmed to a world record of 52.85 in the heats of the 100m freestyle at the German national championships and world-championship trials in Berlin. It was 9.23am.

The standard had stood at 52.88 to Libby Trickett (AUS) since last year. Steffen's European record had stood at 53.05 (the second-best ever after Trickett's five sub-53 efforts) since last July

The double Olympic sprint champion emerged to tell reporters: "I'm feeling in good shape but this suit is of a different world. This is a really weird piece of equipment, one that I've never worn before. You don't die in the last metres and you feel no pain. Under normal circumstances, this suit should be forbidden, and I expect that by 2010 it will be. I felt like a speedboat in water and never in my life would I have believed that a human could glide like that."

Asked about the FINA decision to allow 100% poly suits last Monday, she said: "I will swim as fast as I can, who knows what rules will be in place by January."

The splits compared, showing the painless fast finish: 

  • Steffen: 25.81; 52.85 (27.04)
  • Trickett: 25.40; 52.88 (27.48)

Adidas's response to the LZR Racer could have gone two ways: we walk away or we fight and show you what we felt like last year. Now adidas can turn round to Germany and the DSV and genuinely say "do not tell us our suit is not competitive". What Speedo did to its rivals (and nations that did not or could not wear Speedo) last year, those rivals are now doing right back in full measure and more.

Meantime, a FINA source informs SwimNews this morning that the reason why Jaked can have its 01 model in the water unmodified but the arena X-Glide and TYR Titan and Descente Aquaforce Zero had to be modified was because Jaked was alone in bringing a scientist before the suits commission last week and proving sufficient doubt in the assertion of Prof Jan-Anders Manson, head of the suit testing team in Lausanne, that there was "some permeability but not enough" in the suits banned on May 19. 

So was it too late for arena and TYR and Descente to put forward the same science now that the June 19 deadline was past? "Is it too late? Probably not - if they can prove it," said the senior FINA source.

The trouble for FINA is that arena, for example, took with them to Lausanne, a study fromf the University of Bologna, based on 60,000 measures run on a sample of swimmers and signed off by Professor Giorgio Gatta. The research concluded:  there is no air in the suit.

In Lausanne this morning, FINA leaders held a meeting at which they concluded that their knowledge of suits and the "science" of it all was so lacking that they would have to take the anti-doping route and appoint a panel of experts to work alongside Prof Manson so that hard lines could be drawn. 

FINA's intention is to have a "clean sport, a clean everything" by 2011. 

SwimNews is reliably informed that several models of suits on FINA's approved suits list are designed to interact with the central nervous system and reduce pain. At this stage we cannot say which models of suits are involved. We can say that they did get past all of that "science".

The final of Steffen's 100m unfolds Saturday (the German nationals is following an unusual format). In other action in Berlin, Hendrik Feldwehr clocked a heats time of 27.37 in the 50m breaststroke, better than the previous fastest on the clock (but not in a fast suit), the 27.44 of Mark Warnecke in 2005. Thomas Rupprath was next to set a best time, of 24.73 in the 50m backstroke, with Helge Meeuw on 24.74, both inside the previous German pre-fast-suit best of 24.80. Rupprath and Meeuw protested in the sprint back final at the European s/c championships in Rijeka by wearing adidas briefs and getting hammered at start and turn. Now they have access to fast suits of their choice, until such times as fast suits are ruled out of the pool.

Daniel Samulski clocked 27.85 in the 50m backstroke heats, just 0.02sec shy of the time she clocked on Monaco earlier this month behind Anastasia Zueva (RUS). Here's why the world and European records are not worth the paper they are written on.

In finals in Berlin, Yannick Lebherz took the 200m medley in 2:01.02 ahead of Tim Wallburger (2:02.57) and Felix Wolf (2:02.94); Annika Mehlhorn won the women's equivalent in 4:43.89 in a tight race with Theresa Michalak (4:44.09), with Madeleine Kraus third on 4:50.59. Martin Grodzki claimed the 1,500m free in 15:28.18.