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Steffen Hydrofoils Once More: 52.56 WR 100m Free

Jun 27, 2009  - Craig Lord

Britta Steffen and her new adidas Hydrofoil suit took sprint swimming into a new era in Berlin a moment ago: 25.30 at the 50m and 52.56 at the finish.  She said she believed that the suit made at least half a second difference.

After setting the third "world record" of the German trials, Steffen, coached by Norbert Warnatsch at SG Neukölln Berlin, told former six-times Olympic champion for the GDR, Kristin Otto, now a TV presenter and poolside reporter, that the suit helped her to "cut through the water like butter". The pain that was cut out in the heats when she clocked 52.85 on Thursday, was a little more noticeable, she said with a smile. 

"I want to thank the fans. I felt like I was on a wave," Steffen, 25, said. "In the final, it was much harder for me than in the heats." She added that, even though she had benefitted from a "fast-suit" made almost entirely of non-textile fabric, she believed that the suits were detrimental to swimming and ought to be banned. Here is what she said after her heats swim.

Behind Steffen today came Daniela Samulski, of SG Essen and setter of that 50m backstroke 'world' record yesterday, on 54.44, with Daniela Schreiber, SV Halle (Saale), third in 54.49 ahead of Petra Dallmann, SV Nikar Heidelberg, on 55.12. 

Steffen's latest gain was all down to the first 50m and showed that she can go out faster than her main rival and the women she beat for the Olympic crown last year. Libby Trickett (AUS) and then come home faster than the Dolphin too. The splits compared:

  • Steffen: 25.30; 52.56 (27.26) 
  • Steffen: 25.81; 52.85 (27.04)
  • Trickett: 25.40; 52.88 (27.48)

After her heats swim, Steffen suggested that her suit was capable of biofeedback. SwimNews has disturbing information that suggests biofeedback has been confirmed by people behind the development of several models that made it on to the FINA approved suits list, even though the Dubai Charter specifically forbids such things. 

The question posed, with a smile, by those who understand biofeedback a little better than FINA is simple: how will they be able to test for that?

Not all of the fast action in Berlin relied on suits of 100% woe. Paul Biedermann set two German records within half an hour wearing an arena Revolution. He wiped out the last national mark held by a GDR man, with a 3:46.67 in the 400m free, and following up with a sensational 48.39 100m free effort.

Sensational? You bet. Here's the Athens 2004 podium:

  • Pieter van den Hoogenband NED  48.17
  • Roland Schoeman RSA 48.23
  • Ian Thorpe AUS 48.56

Just wait until Biedermann dons the full 100% non-textile. Coached by Frank Embacher at SV Halle (Saale), Biedermann emerged from the 100m to tell Otto, winner of six gold medals at the Seoul Games where Dassler claimed the then world record in the 400m free and the crown, to say: "I will only be happy when we return to what we were wearing in 2007 or before."

A taste of the circus to come in Rome next month was in full show in the 100m breaststroke: Germany now has three men inside the minute - and two of them raced inside world-record pace at the 50m.

Steffen's final impacted the record books and the all-time top 10 (Italics indicated times swum after February 2008, when performance-enhancing non-textile fabrics and new suit constructions allowed by FINA):

  • 52.56 Steffen (GER)
  • 52.88 Trickett (AUS)
  • 53.17 Veldhuis (NED)
  • 53.30 Campbell (AUS)
  • 53.39 Coughlin (USA) 
  • 53.49 Metella (FRA)
  • 53.52 Henry (AUS) 
  • 53.55 Pellegrini (ITA) 
  • 53.58 Weir (USA) 
  • 53.60 Seppala (FIN)

World record progression

  • 54.01 Jingyi Le CHN Rome 5.9.94 
  • 53.80 Inge de Bruijn NED Sheffield 29.5.00 
  • 53.77sf Inge de Bruijn NED Sydney 20.9.00 (semi)
  • 53.66sf Libby Lenton AUS Sydney 31.3.04 (semi)
  • 53.52sf Jodie Henry AUS Athens 18.8.04 (semi)
  • 53.42sf Libby Lenton AUS Melbourne 31.01.06 (semi)
  • 53.30 Britta Steffen GER Budapest 2.8.06 
  • February 2008: performance-enhancing non-textile fabrics and new suit constructions allowed by FINA
  • 52.88 Libby Trickett AUS Sydney 27.3.08 
  • 52.85 Britta Steffen GER Berlin 25.6.09 (prelim)
  • 52.56 Britta Steffen GER Berlin 27.6.09 (final)

FINA plans to impose a rule that bans non-textile suits. The question remains: when?

Beidermann, meantime, is in good shape for Rome, with more gains in prospect should he opt for 100% woe when facing rivals who will also be wearing shinier devices. The 400m free German standard had stood to Dassler at 3:46.95 since he won the Olympic title in 1988, while the 100m had stood to at 48.55 to Steffen Deibler since last year. Biedermann's best had been 49.16. Deibler, Hamburger SC, finished second today in 49.10, with Markus Deibler, TG Biberach, setting a German junior mark of 49.55.

Behind Biedermann in the 400m were 21-year-old Christian Kubusch, SC Magdeburg, on 3:48.49 (2008 best: 3:51.14) and 20-year-old Clemens Rapp, TSV Bad Saulgau, on 3:50.22 (2008 best: 3:54.90).

In the 100m breaststroke, the three men in the middle of the pool wore a variety of 100% woe, the suits clearly significant to the result. The result sheet reads:

  • 1. Hendrik Feldwehr 1986 SG Essen 00:59,45 DR;  00:27,99 00:59,45 
  • 2. Johannes Neumann 1985 SC Riesa 00:59,63;  00:27,74 00:59,63 
  • 3. Marco Koch 1990 DSW 1912 Darmstadt 00:59,80 DJR 00:27,74 00:59,80 

Here are their best times before this season: Feldwehr 1:01.67 (April 2008); Neumann 1:02.42; Koch 1:01.98. And coming into the championships, their best times were 1:00.45 for Neumann seven months ago; 1:01.59 for Koch in April. 

They, along with adidas and other suits makers who have taken a stick to the Speedo LZR with FINA's permission, are now full members of the equipment-based sport that has killed off the technique-based sport that survived until February 2008 and survived in pockets until the past eight of nine months. 

Here's how things looked in Germany on January 1, 2008:

  • 1:01.19 Kruppa 2004
  • 1:01.33 Warnecke 1996
  • 1:01.79 Losel 2007
  • 1:01.79 Neumann 2006
  • 1:01.82 Kolonko 2004
  • 1:01.91 Schneider 2004
  • 1:02.07 Feldwehr 2007
  • 1:02.21 Cool 2003
  • 1:02.34 Nowakowski 2000
  • 1:02.41 Kasprowicz 2007

Andreas Lösel was the only other man on that list to race in the Berlin final. He finished fourth in 1:02.73, the gulf between past and present vast. There is only one name change between Jan 2008 and June 2009, but the suit and the clock tell the tale of hard work masked by the new king of the sport: the suit.

The 15-strong sub-minute club now:

  • 58.91 Kitajima, Kosuke JPN
  • 59.03 Barbosa, Henrique BRA
  • 59.13 Hansen, Brendan USA
  • 59.16 Dale Oen, Alexander NOR
  • 59.37 Duboscq, Hugues FRA
  • 59.45 Feldwehr, Hendrik GER
  • 59.48 Tateishi, Ryo JPN
  • 59.50 Stekelenburg, Lennart NED
  • 59.63 Neumann, Johannes GER
  • 59.65 Rickard, Brenton AUS
  • 59.80 Koch, Marco GER
  • 59.87 Sludnov, Roman RUS
  • 59.88 Cook, Chris GBR
  • 59.90 Suenaga, Yuta JPN
  • 59.96 van der Burgh, Cameron RSA

And the sub-minute club on Jan 31, 2008:

  • 59.13 Hansen
  • 59.53 Kitajima
  • 59.94 Sludnov

Gosh, what a wave. Exactly what you might expect.

Sarah Poewe, German record holder in the 100m breaststroke with a 1:07.10, has not been enjoying a good season so far, but the former South African now with SG Bayer Wup/Uer/Dor sealed her place in Rome by holding off two big improvers with a 1:07.57. Second was Caroline Ruhnau, SG Essen, on 1:07.87 (2008 best of 1:10.12) and Kerstin Vogel, SV Rhenania Köln, on 1:08.34 (2008 best of 1:10.57).

The 400m free for women went to Jaana Ehmcke, Potsdamer SV, in 4:12.45; the 200m 'f;y for men went to Toni Embacher, SV Halle (Saale), in 1:58.49, and his clubmate Franziska Hentke clocked 2:08.00 to win the 200m 'fly for women ahead of Annika Mehlhorn, SG ACT/Baunatal, on 2:09.46.  Felix Wolf, Potsdamer SV, got the touch in a tight 200m backstroke final, his 1:58.03 keeping at bay Yannick Lebherz, DSW 1912 Darmstadt, on 1:58.57, and Jan-Philip Glania, SC Wasserfreunde Fulda 1923, on 1:59.59. The women's equivalent went to Jenny Mensing, SC Wiesbaden 1911, in 2:12.60.

The mood of the commentary by former German internationals Christian Keller and Kristin Otto and those they interviewed on poolside in Berlin was clear: we don't particularly like what is going on with suits but if the world is allowed to wear them then we have to wear them to if we want to be competitive. 

Holding up a suit that looked fit for a toddler, Otto said she was glad that she did not have to squeeze into "one of these" and felt that it was sad that every performance had to be seen in the light of the suit (no need to spell out the irony in that one), while Keller noted that swimmers still had to train hard and be dedicated. But he made no bones about stating what everyone in the world of swimming knows to be true: the suits all work in different ways for different people, they enhance performance and "LEN has different rules to FINA and there is an unlevel playing field". He added: "That's not good for swimming or the swimmers."

I leave you with the following 'joke' doing the rounds in Berlin (thank you to the coach who alerted me) and something from L'Equipe today:

A Berlin Recipe:

  • Start with a LZR simmer slowly at 2% gain or more until you have 108 World records
  • Throw in a pinch of B70,Tyr and others add another 2% + Gain and break ..... SC World records
  • Add Hydrofoils/Jakeds(Not Jackets as in potatoes) turn up the gain 3% and add ..... new world records.
  • Completely ignore the swimmers and coaches stirring slowly as our sport dissolves!
  • Serve-at best in the dark(Mushroom tactics of the federation) while still hot adding a pinch of .......(Or is it just the suit?)
  • and the winner is in lane three the Jaked! 

Can we go more bizzare than the above? Watch this space for more exciting news coming soon to a pool near you!

  • 50M Free Rome: 19,8
  • 100M Free Rome :45,3
  • 200M Free Rome 1:39,9

of course nobody at the bottom  will want to continue but...

And From The French paper, a cartoon showing a dialogue between two swimmers (thanks to a French friend, and sorry I can't link to the actual cartoon, which is only in the paper:

  • Blue-suited swimmer: "Do you know what? The Federation approved my swimsuit!"
  • Grey-suited swimmer: "Super! It also ratifies your record then!"
  • Blue "Well...No.. Because I broke it before the approval of the swimsuit. And you?"
  • Grey: "Well, for me, the Federation ratified my record... but not my swimsuit"
  • Blue: "Damn ...  What happened?"
  • Grey: "The colour did not follow the rules".
  • Blue: "But tell me...  Is the Federation actually ratified?"

Ed: not for much longer if it continues down the path to a slowbleed death of what should never have been allowed in the race pool.