Back to low-tech 

A number of records were set at the Arkansas high school swimming championships in February. There probably won't be so many record-breaking performances next year.

That's because some of this year's swimmers wore high-tech swimsuits of the sort made famous at the 2008 Olympics. Last month, the National Federation of State High School Associations, the governing body of high school sports, banned the high-tech suits.

Kathy Tadlock, associate executive director of the Arkansas Activities Association, which regulates high school athletics in this state, confirmed that some swimmers wore the high-tech suits this year, but she wasn't sure what schools they were from. Forty-four Arkansas schools have swimming teams.

One of the schools that had swimmers wearing high-tech suits was Bentonville, which won both the boys' and girls' championships.

In Arkansas, high school swimmers generally furnish their own suits. More of them might have worn the high-tech suits were it not that the suits are very expensive, in the neighborhood of $500.

Few high schools have that sort of money to invest in swimsuits, either. And even if a school could afford one or two of the high-tech jobs, it could hardly provide suits for the best swimmers on the team and tell the others to go scratch. Bad public relations.

Laura Crow, swim coach at Conway, said none of her swimmers wore the high-tech suit. She approves of the ban. The high-tech suit would be fair if everybody could afford it, she said, but not everybody can.

At the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, 33 of the first 36 swimming medals were won by contestants wearing high-tech suits made by Speedo. The suits cover more of the swimmers' bodies than the old suits and are designed to reduce drag.

In announcing the ban on high-tech suits for high-school swimmers, Becky Oakes of the National Federation said:

“These high-tech suits had fundamentally altered the sport and become more similar to equipment, rather than a uniform. The rules of swimming have always prohibited the use or wearing of items that would aid in the swimmer's speed and/or buoyancy. The technical suits and styles had evolved to a point where there was little, if any, compliance with these basic rules.”

Tadlock said the high-tech suits “really uneven the playing field. And high-school athletics is amateur athletics. We're not the Olympics. We're not college.” In fact, the colleges and the Olympians are banning the high-tech suits too.

At least one commentator is displeased with the ban on high-tech suits. Detentionslip.org is a well-known education blog. It said of the National Federation's action, “Just another example of schools holding us back because they are afraid of technological advances. If they really want to test the true athleticism of swimmers, they would make them compete nude.”

The PTA would never stand for it.



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