By and  on February 13, 2008

NEW YORK — Speedo made a splash here today with the unveiling of its new “space age” LZR Racer swimsuit, which has undergone extensive testing by U.S. Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin.

Speedo began the day on the Today Show, introducing the swimsuit to millions of viewers. Later, seven Olympic swimmers modeled the suits in New York at a press conference that featured a 3-D video about the evolution of the suit’s design, as well as the hours of research and testing.

“You feel like a rocket, and like you’re swimming not under the water, but on top of the water,” multiple world record-holder Phelps said. The eldest of the panel, 50-meter freestyle record holder Dara Torres recalled “the old days” when her coaches used to douse them in baby oil to make them go faster.

“But this material,” she said, speaking of the Racer, “is faster than your skin.”

Nike also hosted its swimmers Kaitlin Sandino and Cullen Jones, as well as married track and field athletes Kara and Adam Goucher and softball player Jessica Mendoza at a media event on Feb. 11 at its New York showroom.

Speedo provided a live Webcast of its New York launch, and viewers to Speedo’s official site could also watch exclusive footage from the three other launches in London, Tokyo and Sydney that took place Feb. 13.

Said Craig Brommers, vice-president of marketing, Speedo: “It’s truly the biggest launch I have been involved in, and the biggest launch in the brand’s 80-year history.

“One of the big things is that, for the first time, even NASA helped develop this swimsuit and was part of the independent testing that this is the world’s fastest swimsuit,” Brommers continued. “NASA doesn’t do this type of thing lightly.”

Brommers said Speedo wanted to fuse art and science in the suit. The art comes from avant-garde fashion company Commes des Garcons.

A regular performance version, without the Commes des Garcon graphics, will be sold to sport specialty stores and on Speedo’s website for $550 retail. Full-leg and hip-to-knee versions will be available, too, for $350 and $290 retail, respectively

“The full body suit is far and away our most expensive swimsuit,” Brommers said. “But the more coverage, the faster you go.” There is one catch, however. It takes about 20 minutes to get the full suit on.

Speedo is hoping Phelps can pull off a bigger gold medal grab at the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, starting in August, than he did in Athens in 2004. He won six in Athens and is going after an unprecedented eight in Beijing.

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