Olympic Swimmers Emulate Sharks & Dolphins
While many Olympians go through excruciating lengths to shed milliseconds off of their race times, the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team have called on a new focus - that is, emulating the natural technique of the best and most powerful swimmers in the world: sharks and dolphins.
From suits to strokes, coaches, researchers and other advisers are making sure that their athletes benefit from fish and marine mammals' natural swimming abilities.
"Some of our athletes are now wearing what are called 'shark skin suits,'" Russell Mark, biomechanics coordinator for U.S.A. Swimming, told Discovery News.
"These aren't made of actual shark skin, of course, but they are slippery in feel, like sharks, and they make the wearer move faster than normal in the water by reducing friction and drag," he explained.
Mark also indicated that excelling at the dolphin kick can make or break a swimmer's race.
"This is when swimmers push off walls and swim underwater without moving their arms, very similar to how a dolphin swims," he said.
The move emulates how dolphins zoom through water by moving their flipper in an up and down motion. Sharks, in contrast, move side to side. Humans are mammals like dolphins and the up and down undulating motion propels people as it does dolphins. The dolphin kick is one of the most powerful moves among professional swimmers.
Sharks are some of the world's fastest swimmers. One impressive species is the shortfin mako, which has been reliably clocked at 31 miles per hour underwater. Everything about this fish is designed for swimming in short bursts of perfection. It has a streamlined body, a crescent-shaped tail supported by keels and a water-cutting, pointed snout.