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Japanese given right to choose swimwear

by Kaz Nagatsuka

The swimsuit issue is seemingly not inseparable from the sport.

The Japan Swimming Federation (JASF) has announced it will give Japanese national representatives the freedom to wear any swimsuits in this year’s international events, including the FINA World Championships, which will be held July 17 to Aug. 2 in Rome.

The JASF has contracts with three Japanese major sporting companies — Mizuno, Descente and Asics — as official suppliers. But it decided to grant an exceptional measure for the swimmers to wear any suit for the Beijing Olympics after the controversial Speedo’s LZR Racer came out last year.

Japan closed out the Summer Games in China in successful fashion, but could not put an end to the swimsuit matter.

“The bottom line is, we’ve decided this because we’re going to win,” JASF general secretary Masafumi Izumi said on Monday.

But the Japanese swimmers do not rely heavily on the Speedo-made outfits any more.

Japanese manufacturers have worked around the clock since the Olympics to compete with the British company.

Of the 20 national records set (two of them came from different swimmers who finished 1-2 in the same race for the record) at the four-day National Swimming Championships last weekend, 13 of them were made by those who wore Descente-made swimsuits, while four wore Speedo, three Mizuno and one Asics.

The one made by Descente applies rubber material and it’s perceived as quite favorable by swimmers who wore it because it was easier for them to move their bodies, compared to the LZR Racer. The LZR Racer tends to make the body tighten up, restricting one’s motion.

That said, the Japanese companies would not reveal the details of their respective swimsuits. Those suits have not yet gone on sale for the public, and it is unclear whether their swimwear will be permitted at this year’s worlds.

Izumi said that the FINA is “in a transition period,” trying to reform all of these swimsuit issues, and that is why it’s difficult to predict what type of swimsuits will be approved or not.

But FINA, the sport’s world governing body, made its official proclamation after a meeting in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, last month that starting in 2010 swimmers must wear only swimsuits it approves for FINA-sanctioned tournaments and Olympics.

As for the prospect of whether Japanese swimsuits will be approved or not, Izumi responded with a bitter smile, saying, “I have no idea.

“We’ve not received one single response (from FINA). We don’t have any information.”

Izumi added, however, that at least these suits meet the requirements that were revealed in the Dubai proclamation.