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Swimmers, including Channel World Record holder Petar Stoychev, have welcomed news that body suits will be allowed in open water events next year. Stoychev holds a key position on the FINA athletes commission and is calling on the world governing body to secure the safety of athletes and development of the sport by ensuring that technical body suits remain in the sport for the future.
Body suits, such as the blueseventy Nero 10k, have been outlawed for pool swimming, but FINA has confirmed that the same rules will not apply to open water swimming.
The FINA press office said: “The new rules relating to swimwear do not apply to open water. They apply to swimming.” However, the types of fabrics to be permitted are yet to be determined.
Stoychev commented: “At every technical meeting prior to a race FINA officials always say that the health of the swimmers is the most important thing. Full body suits protect the skin from sunburn and dangerous jellyfish. I was hospitalized after a sting in China in 2002 and it is much safer when the skin is covered by a suit.”
“There are no world records in open water. We don’t race against time, just against each other, so there are not the same considerations as in the pool. I agree that Channel swimming is different, it’s right that technical suits are not allowed, but we need them on other races for the future of the sport.”
Introduced to the Olympics for the first time in Beijing, open water swimming has seen a massive boom in popularity since. However, for the sport to progress the use of bodysuits and wetsuits is paramount.
Stoychev also feels strongly that commercial involvement in the sport is vital. He said: “Our sport was in the Olympics for the first time in Beijing and I feel it’s important that we have more opportunities for commercial involvement in order to progress. It is nice to have companies like blueseventy produce suits specifically for open water.”
The Nero 10k suit is a specific open water suit, and was worn by Olympic Champion, Maarten van der Weijden in Beijing last year and by medal winners in World Championships in Rome.
Van der Weijden commented: “The swimwear debate is particularly poignant at age group level, where the sport needs to attract novices. And at elite level races vary in terms of temperature as well as actual water conditions, I’m pleased this is being taken into account rather than just apply the same rules that apply for the pool.”
With events such as this weekend’s Great North Swim attracting thousands of competitors, swimming has a fantastic opportunity to increase participation and interest in the sport. Access to technical swimwear, and wetsuits for beginners, can only help ensure that more people feel confident to dive in to open water.
Steve Nicholls from blueseventy commented: “We are pleased that body suits will remain in the sport of open water swimming. It’s the right move to bring even greater numbers to open water swimming and increase overall participation in swimming.”