Physics: Principles and Problems


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For use with Chapter 6

Swimming Can Be a Drag
Posted October 06, 2000

One of the greatest enemies of an Olympic swimmer is friction. The friction between a swimmer's body and the water causes drag. This is why swimmers shave all the hair from their bodies - to make their skin as smooth as possible to reduce the amount of drag.

This year, sporting goods manufacturers introduced a new bodysuit to the public. This bodysuit worn by swimmers would reportedly help reduce drag because of the special sleek materials used to make them. This special "technologically advanced" clothing was worn by various athletes during the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

The bodysuits are made from polymers and other materials to make them ultra-sleek and smooth. They cover the entire body so that the water flows against the material instead of the skin of the swimmer. This is quite a change from previous swimming outfits, which covered very little.

The new bodysuits apparently produce less drag, however. In fact, some have estimated that wearing these bodysuits could increase a swimmer's best time by as much as 3 percent.

The style of the bodysuit can change depending on the type of swimming stroke performed. There are specialized suits for freestyle, breaststroke, and the backstroke. Each one covers a different amount of the body, depending on how much mobility the swimmer needs for his or her limbs.

Swimming is not the only sport that can benefit from new bodysuits and "technologically advanced" clothing. There are special suits made for cyclists, track and field athletes, and weightlifters as well.

Use the Internet to investigate the effect these new bodysuits had on the 2000 Summer Olympics. Compare performances by athletes to previous years and determine if any times were significantly faster. Were any world records broken by swimmers wearing these suits? Record this information in your Science Journal.



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Physics: Principles and Problems