08/01/2012 04:45 pm ET Updated Aug 01, 2012

Rick Sharp, Professor At Iowa State University, Designs Speedo's 'Fastskin3' For Team USA Swim Team

You don't have to be an athlete to make a splash in the Olympics.

Rick Sharp, a kinesiology professor at Iowa State University, is responsible for developing the "Fastskin3" for Speedo -- an innovative swimsuit that's an Olympic favorite in the 2012 London games.

The suit is priced between $200 and $400, but because it's very tight fitting it does not restrict motion. In an ISU press release, Sharp explained a critical element is the swimsuit's "drag reduction."

"I came into this with the fundamental notion that all suits slow swimmers down because they add drag," Sharp said. "And if we can design suits that don't add as much drag, then swimmers' native performance capacity will be able to be expressed better. I think we were able to do that with the LZR Racer suit [used in Beijing], and we hope we've done that with the Fastskin3 Racing System, too."

The Iowa State Daily reports Sharp did research in the 1990's on the effects of "shaving down" -- or shaving all of a swimmer's body hair to reduce resistance in the water. He was hired to work on the new design after he assisted Speedo's global research and development facility, Aqualab, in creating the LZR suits for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 2010 the regulations regarding competitive swimwear changed, and the team was forced to embark on the task once more.

Alex Gustafson, a member of the ISU swim team, described Sharp as "a celebrity designer" in the swimming world, "with the underlying theme of his line to produce the top times in the world."

While developing the swimsuits, Sharp had members of his university's swim team test the prototypes.

Top swimmers have already applauded the new "Fastskin3," including Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin and Ryan Lochte. In fact, Phelps was reportedly wearing the swimsuit when he earned three gold medals in March at the Columbus Grand Prix in Ohio.

Sharp, who swam in college, has done research on swimmers over the course of his career.

“As we mature through our careers, we tend to gravitate a little bit more away from sport and more into maintaining human health in aging,” Sharp told the Gazette. “Some of us hang onto a little bit of our sport interest. I guess we never grow up.”



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