"I have also been interested in the suit drama over the past year or so. I was wondering what your thoughts are. Or is this too much like asking about religion and politics?"
Well, Leah, you were right to think that I have an opinion about this one. And, now that you've asked, I feel compelled to run my big mouth on the topic (today and probably every so often over the course of this blog). The only problem is that my opinion has changed over the course of the last 18 months.
The other night Mark and I were eating dinner on the porch. We were recapping the Paris Open (at which he was pretty much AWESOME--if I do say so myself) and he said, "Man, I'm glad the suits are out." He was referring to the tech suits.
I remember in 2008 when Mark first slipped into a Speedo LZR he thought it was awesome. Then, last year when he wore the Jaked he felt unstoppable. The only problem was that everyone else felt this way (and it was true), too. So many people were swimming fast. Though this was great, it seemed to take the mystery, excitement and passion out of fast swims (I'm not hating on the suits... at the time, we loved them as much as the next guy).
I did not travel to the World Championships last summer with Mark (boo), but Mark later told me that world record swims were becoming so common that no one really even seemed to care (I'm sure this is an exageration). Mark says that he remembers the moment that he saw a world record swim for the first time. He says that he remembers almost all of the world record swims that he has seen since then (stroke technique, breathing patterns, celebrations at the wall). But last summer, world records were falling so fast that he doesn't quite remember them like he used to (this may also be his old age... our Old Man River is the oldest in his event most of the time); fast swims and records had become the norm.
What I loved about the suit drama was the drama (Mark hated this). I loved the discussion boards, the arguments, the meetings and rulings and the subsequent press releases. And, the suit contraversy definitely created a wave of drama. Though this drama increased television viewership and swimming conversation among non swimmers and mainstream media, it was no good for the athletes. Remind me to tell you about the time that Mark ripped his suit at nationals hours before his race and had to send everyone on, what seemed like a wild goose chase, a mission to find him a suit to wear; I hate to give the ending away but Megan Jendrick's husband was the big hero of the day.
Anyway, now that the "suits are out" I can't wait to see a world record swim (and it will happen). I can't wait to hear Rowdy Gaines shout, "He did it! He did it!" A world record swim in a textile will be a thrill for all of us waiting eagerly in the stands and a textile-only existence will ease the stress of athletes like Mark.
So, without boring those who may not know, or who may not care, about the tech suit controversy, my official opinion is...
I like fast swimming. I liked watching the fast swims in the high tech suits, but I am going to like the fast swims in textile suits, too (maybe more).
In Mark's words, "It is now back to being all about the swimming..."
My opinion, and personal angst, over what the tech suits did for sponsorship of average, everyday Olympians will come in the next few weeks.