NEW YORK — Fresh off their wins in Athens, Olympic gold medalists Amanda Beard, Natalie Coughlin and Michael Phelps modeled Speedo’s activewear line Axcelerate at the company’s showroom here Wednesday.

Beard and Coughlin sported the collection’s jackets, shorts and shoes, while Phelps previewed the men’s line in an Axcelerate T-shirt and pants, as well as his own ratty, worn-out flip-flops.

Men’s shoes haven’t been produced yet for Speedo, which is distributed by Warnaco, but Phelps’ footwear choice clearly reflects his personal style. “Clothes are clothes,” he said unenthusiastically.

Beard and Coughlin, on the other hand, praised Speedo for creating a sportswear line that focuses as much on comfort as it does on fashion. “You want to look good when you work out, at least girls do,” Beard said.

Between them, Phelps, Beard and Coughlin won 16 medals in swim competitions this summer. So where do they keep them? “In a makeup bag,” Coughlin said. “It’s compact and easier to keep them all together.”

“In a very secure location,” Phelps said as if he were protecting the Vice President.

“Mine are in a secure location, too,” admitted Beard. “They’re in my underwear drawer.”

Speedo was well represented in Athens last month. One-third of U.S. medal winners were in Speedo, while 52 percent of Olympic swimmers wore the brand. With its new activewear line, the company looks to build on its tradition as a performance swim brand, and it made a distinct effort to create apparel that combines technology and style.

Seamless tops with shelf bras and nylon and Lycra spandex mesh hoodies come in brights like green, yellow and orange as well as pastel blue and pink. Wholesale prices range from $13 for T-shirts to $41.50 for performance unitards. The women’s line will be introduced to better specialty and department stores and sporting goods stores for spring. The men’s collection will be launched next year. Axcelerate will also feature a new logo based on the sharkskin design on its Fastskin swimsuits, which were developed for the Olympic Games.

“Doing market research we found customers are looking for clothing they can wear and not feel like they’re going to the gym,” said Kathy Van Ness, president of Warnaco’s designer swim brands.

This story first appeared in the September 9, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Axcelerate will be supported by an ad campaign, which is expected to begin as the collection hits stores, and will showcase athletes. The first shoot features a sultry photo of Beard, who is clearly the fashionista of the group and who plans to attend the Luca Luca runway show while she’s in town this week. The campaign concept, Van Ness said, “will be less about showing a lot of product. It’s to get the attitude started. It’s, ‘What is she thinking?’ She’s thinking about winning.”

— Emily Holt