Never before has a suit garnered this much attention. Well, maybe with the exception of one of Craig Sager's.
Michael Phelps lost in a major individual competition for the first time in four years on Tuesday, as Germany's Paul Biedermann topped him with a new world record in the 200-meter freestyle — one which Phelps previously owned — at the world swimming championships. But it wasn't necessarily because Biedermann is the better pure swimmer.
Biedermann was wearing Arena X-Glide polyurethane suit, considered faster than Phelps' Speedo LZR Racer. With the technological advantage, Biedermann was not only able to topple Phelps and his world record by over a second. He also trumped Ian Thorpe's world record in the 400 free.
"The suits make a difference," Biedermann told ESPN.com. "I hope there will be a time when I can beat Michael Phelps without these suits. I hope next year. I hope it's really soon."
That time will have to come soon for Biedermann, as swimming's governing body, FINA, has banned buoyancy-aiding suits like the Arena X-Glide starting in 2010.
But that might not be soon enough for Phelps' coach Bob Bowman, who was outraged after the loss.
"We've lost all the history of the sport," Bowman told ESPN.com. "Does a 10-year-old boy in Baltimore want to break Paul Biedermann's record? Is that going to make him join swimming?"
"I'm done with this," Bowman continued. "[The changes have] to be implemented immediately. The sport is in shambles right now, and they better do something or they're going to lose their guy who fills these suits."
Phelps, though disappointed, was a little more in control than his coach after the race.
"Theoretically, that was a pretty good swim for me — three-tenths off my best time after taking six months off," Phelps said. "I mean, I'm not happy, but I mean I know I didn't train much this year. For right now, I'll take it."
Still, Phelps — who was noticeably uncomfortable when taking pictures with Biedermann and bronze medalist Danila Izotov after the race — couldn't help but take a parting shot at the suit that beat him.
"It's going to be fun next year," he said, "when swimming is back to swimming."
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