NEW YORK — Using airplane-inspired technology, Adidas aims to help Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe reach new heights at the FINA World Swimming Championships, which get under way Sunday in Barcelona.

The 20-year-old Olympian will be the first swimmer to compete in Adidas’ Jetconcept. Designed to cruise through the water the way a commercial plane soars through the sky, Adidas says, the Jetconcept bodysuit has ribbed panels similar to the V-shaped grooves on an airplane’s fuselage and wings.

To try to reduce drag and turbulence, the panels run from the underarm to the lower back and cover the gluteus maximus. The design is said to help channel water over the back, with an estimated improved performance of 3 percent, an Adidas spokeswoman said.

Thorpe — whose nickname is“Thorpedo” — and a team of other elite athletes helped Adidas test the product. This model is a step up from the first full-length bodysuit Adidas introduced in 1998. Thorpe won three gold Olympic medals and one silver wearing that suit at the Sydney Summer Games in 2000.

Jetconcept is made with Lycra Power, a compression material developed by DuPont to help reduce muscle fatigue and improve blood circulation. It also is designed to help reduce water retention at the neck, wrists and ankles, as well as limit drag through strategically placed flatlock seams.

Adidas has been tinkering with the suit for 2 1/2 years. FINA swimmers and attendees can buy the suit at an Adidas booth at the FINA championships, but at this point, there are no plans to sell the $325 swimsuit in the U.S. Fahnemann, a German retailer, will sell the suit exclusively at its store near Hanover and through its Web site, the-world-of-sports.com, as of December.

Thorpe and other test wearers said wearing the suit helps them raise their legs higher and improves horizontal propulsion, the spokeswoman said. The suit is said to help decrease the amount of water carried on a swimmer’s back by moving more water under the body, she added.

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