My junior club swimming was all done in the 90s, and in Ireland back in those days it was hard to come by decent swimwear (and forget about apparel from the top brands). Most swim hats were latex and the fanciest swim suits were lycra. This typically meant you would have your “good” suit for competitions, which would eventually become your training suit when it started sagging a little. These suits were pretty cheap and being kids we didn’t know any better, so you might bring 2-3 suits to a competition and end up wearing them for a warm up, swims, practically the whole day. Then things started to change for us after Atlanta 1996, not only did we get to see Speedo’s Aquablade in action, we also got to see an Irish swimmer win medals wearing them. Suddenly we were all watching out for them, the whole concept of a knee-length jammer blew our minds. There were only two problems, convincing our parents that we should get this suit, and finding a place to buy them. We would have to wait until a competition had a pop-up swim shop, which wasn’t too often, and then find an affordable pair. Excitement was stirred up when speedo released a blue version over here and word got around that members of the Irish team would get green ones. Eventually I had my chance, a pop-up shop, enough pocket money saved up, and bonus, their latest purple version. It was the briefs version, this was partly because they only had purple in briefs and partly because I was suspicious of jammers being faster. While I did take better care of them than my other suits, I shudder to think of how I used them compared to my current tech suits. Still I had some great swims with them in my final junior years and with the college galas I was in, the power of positive thinking.
I wasn’t in Ireland when masters swimming was opened up to everyone over 18 and didn’t compete in a masters event until I was 27. At that point it was just part of my fitness program, I had great fun training, competing, and for the first time ever winning regularly. Things were tough financially and I didn’t see the point in buying fancy suits for the amount of swimming I was doing, so I raced in my endurance briefs. This all changed in 2015 when I found out about the European Masters being in London in 2016, suddenly I had a solid goal, a reason to take training more seriously and more money. Added to this perfect storm was the knowledge that these competitions insist on FINA approved suits. So, I went online and started looking for FINA approved suits, there were a lot out there.
To make things easier on myself I just went to amazon, selected the free shipping option, and searched for men’s FINA approved suits. There weren’t many options so I went with Maru’s Pro T. Not knowing too much about tech suits, I didn’t size down and did what I did with every other suit I used to wear. I got the thing on, thought it was a bit tight at the time, and dived in for the warm up. I instantly saw a difference and decided I need to get more of these things. I cringe at it now, but I ended up wearing the things for almost the whole day. As soon as I was home I went and bought more entry level suits so that I had options for London. When I started planning for Budapest I decided to upgrade and learned all about how to look after tech suits, which means I wear them only for “big” races. I also learned how tight and hard the things are to get on and more importantly, the difference they can make. I can see though that things haven’t changed too much in Irish swimming, when I’m coaching at junior competitions I see kids spending all day in the same expensive suits, warm-ups, races, everything. At least I’ve drilled it into my daughter not to make the same mistake, not while I’m buying them for her. – Mike