Michael Phelps with Fins?

Tracy YoungContributor IAugust 6, 2009

ROME - AUGUST 01:  Michael Phelps of the United States celebrates victory in the Men's 100m Butterfly Final during the 13th FINA World Championships at the Stadio del Nuoto on August 1, 2009 in Rome, Italy.  Phelps broke the world record setting a new time of 49.82 seconds.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

In light of the polyurethane suit controversy, here’s a proposal. How about modelling a swimming series after Formula One, where suit manufacturers field teams, providing them with exclusive designs from the latest technology?

The teams could sell sponsorship on the suits. Seeing how there’s a trend toward covering the entire body, that could be very lucrative.

And the swimmers seem to keep getting longer and broader, so it’s a natural fit.

On top of that, tattoos could be applied to any exposed skin, maximizing income.

Up until the full-body suit era, swimming has been all about human achievement.

(We’ll disregard the East German regime for developing oddly muscular participants.)

Granted, it is somewhat impressive to see Michael Phelps win his millionth gold medal on the basis of marathon training sessions and physiological selectivity.

But with materials engineering—or at least newfound applications of existing materials—on such a roll, why not take advantage of that potentially explosive area?

Then those who are always eating Phelps’ fumes would have a shot at records, like Paul Biedermann finally besting Phelps in the 200 freestyle.

In Rome, wearing a new Arena suit, Biedermann swam the event four seconds faster than he had in the Olympics last summer, when Phelps won the race.

World records would drop faster than an anvil on a piano.

Even that’s good for business, keeping scorekeepers, computer and software manufacturers, and Elias busy, having to change an entry before it’s even been backed up.

(To obstinately disprove the theory, in Rome, old suited-Phelps beat new suited-Milorad Cavic in the 100 butterfly, showing that indeed human will is a powerful thing.)

And like F1 and other kinds of auto racing, should one team run away with things, the rules can simply be changed on a whim, with little warning, according to what side of the bed the Chairman rises on.

For guidance, we only have to look to nature, at fast sea creatures—like marlins, tuna, sharks. Even their color schemes could provide inspiration. 

The tiny air pockets in the new suits’ seams imitate the buoyancy of fat layers already. What, you don't think a tuna-shaped swimmer sounds appealing?

Fin and tail shapes could even be added, or maybe pointy head pieces to spear the water—whatever aids speed and aquadynamics.

But in January, before anything like that happens, it looks like it’s back to human achievement, old fashioned textile swimsuits, and Michael Phelps’ return to dominance.