Poll Results: If Phelps and Biedermann would have worn the same suit in Rome 2009 in the 200m Free, who would have won? - (Total votes - 155)
Phelps - 86 votes - 55.5%
Biedermann - 60 votes - 38.7%
Isotov - 9 votes - 5.8%
So the swimming world has spoken. Had both men worn the same suits at last year's World Championships, the majority of people believe Michael Phelps would have beaten Paul Biedermann in the 200m Free final.
I personally voted for Biedermann... here's my reasoning:-
1. As much as his suit helped him, its not like Phelps was wearing a pair of boardies when he swam. He was wearing a full body LZR suit. Is the difference between Biedermann's suit and Phelps' worth a full 1.22 seconds?
(Side note 1 - One article described the race as 'man against thermoplastic, basically a case of Phelps trying to swim faster than a guy wearing the hull of a spacecraft' and went on to say 'his outdated Speedo LZR suit, which was a relic, a junker despite the fact that just a year ago its “ultrasonically welded” seams were the sport’s latest rage.')
(Side note 2 - This 'outdated suit' still
2. Phelps was 0.28 seconds slower than his best time set in Beijing, a great swim but one that opened the door for Biedermann on top of his game.
3. Biedermann has the strength on the back end of a race to challenge Phelps like few others before have been able to. Phelps can no longer rely on a stunning final 50m to overhaul Biedermann like he can against some of his other competitors. Phelps may well have needed a different race plan if he was going to beat Biedermann in Rome.
4. A strong argument against Biedermann is the time he dropped from 2008 to 2009. Rewatch the 2008 Olympic final and look out for the following points:-
a) his awful start
b) the suit he was wearing (just legs, compared to Phelps' LZR)
c) his technique, it wasn't bad in Beijing but had clearly improved by Rome
d) his physique. Biedermann got a lot stronger between 2008 and 2009
Ofcourse we'll never know what would have really happened that day in Rome.
- One problem I do have is the backlash that Biedermann has faced since Rome. Even this year people continue to criticise him for swimming 'slowly' (an example from a commentator on SwimmingWorld, on the day he swam a 1:45.47 relay lead off leg - "people who did well in suits and are now fading away (Herr B., for instance)")... Fading away? Biedermann is ranked 2nd in the world this year ahead of Phelps and 2nd only to a superhuman Ryan Lochte.
Whatever side of the fence you sit (even the 9 of you that voted for Isotov) - 2011 - World Championships, 200m Free final, mark it in the diary.