Irie unfazed by swimsuit dispute

TOKYO: Japanese swimmer Ryosuke Irie -- brushing aside the possibility his world record may be annulled due to a swimsuit dispute -- vowed Wednesday to go faster still at the upcoming world championships.

"I would feel happy if my record is recognised," said the 19-year-old Osaka student, who set the 200-metre backstroke world record on May 10 in a Japan-Australia swimming contest in Canberra.

"But, regardless of the result, I will aim to win medals and renew records at the world swimming championships," he declared confidently, referring to the two-week contest in Rome that starts on July 18.

Swimming's world governing body FINA on Tuesday approved 202 swimsuits, rejected 10 and called for modifications on 136 others, including Irie's.

FINA did not clarify if this meant it would annul world records set by swimmers wearing suits that were not on the approved list.

In Canberra Irie wore a suit from the waist down made by Japanese sports gear maker Descente, which is covered with a rubber-like material from hip to ankle.

"Even if his swimsuit was not approved, it wouldn't reduce his value," Japan's national swimming team head coach Norimasa Hirai told Japanese media.

"With his ability as it is now, he can also set a world record by wearing a swimsuit other than Descente." The use of high-tech swimsuits has caused much controversy in recent years because some experts and top swimmers believe they give users an unfair advantage in the pool.

The "X-Glide" by Arena and the "Jaked 01" -- which were worn by French sprinters Alain Bernard and Frederic Bousquet respectively when they set new world records last month -- also did not appear on FINA's approved list.

In Canberra, Irie clocked 1min 52.86sec, slicing 1.08 seconds off the old 200m record set by American Ryan Lochte when he won gold at the Beijing Olympics last August. Irie finished fifth in Beijing.

In the 100m, the Japanese was just 0.02 seconds off American Aaron Peirsol's world mark of 52.56secs.

Descente said Irie's swimsuit cleared the FINA standards of "buoyancy and/or thickness" but failed to meet a rule related to elements "which create an air/water trapping effect during use." FINA instructed the manufacturers of swimsuits requiring modifications to resubmit corrected versions by June 19 for approval.