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Swimmers invade ramp

Last week, 12 of the country’s top swimmers made waves not in the pool but on the ramp as models of Speedo’s latest collection in swimwear, apparel and equipment at a glitzy evening show in front of the popular brand’s store on Bonifacio High Street.

Speedo Philippines vice president Manish Mahtani was all smiles during the lavish event which introduced dazzling designs in the competitive, fitness, health and well-being and beach sports collections.

Professional models gave the big crowd a glimpse of the latest lines but the swimmers clearly stole the show in the climax of the 45-mintue program. As the swimmers went up and down the ramp, their impressive competition credentials were flashed on two huge screens at the sides, drawing loud cheers from the audience. The models weren’t just for show – they were real-life swimmers attesting to Speedo’s credibility.

Among the spectators were Philippine Amateur Swimming Association president Mark Joseph, Philippine Triathlon Association president Tom Carrasco, 1978 Asian Games swimming gold medalist Ral Rosario, swimming coach Anthony Lozada, broadcaster Anthony Suntay, celebrity Tessa Prieto Valdes and nine-year-old wunderkind Justin Daniel Junio (the youngest swimmer ever to cross the Mactan Channel in 3:46 at the age of six in 2007) with his parents Col. Jose Junio and Beng Pinlac.

Topping the cast of 12 were five national swimmers – Kendrick Uy, Jose Joaquin Gonzales, Jessie King Lacuna, Banjo Borja and Jasmine Alkhadi. They were joined by varsity swimmers Johansen Aguilar of La Salle, Evan Uy of Ateneo, Jasmine Ong of Ateneo, Anna Gonzales of Trace College, Sabrina Ilustre of the University of the East, Christine Tan of La Salle and Claire Adorna of the University of the Philippines.

Kendrick, 22, is the 50-meter freestyle record holder in the UAAP and the ASEAN University Games. Gonzales, 17, was named MVP in last year’s national short course championships. Lacuna, 17, is the Philippines’ record holder in the 200-meter freestyle and 4x200 meter freestyle relay. The Trace College standout was a finalist at the Youth Olympics and Asian Games last year. Borja, 18, is the 200-meter individual medley record holder in the Southeast Asian age-group championships. Alkhadi, 17, holds the Philippine records in 100-meter butterfly, 4x100 meter freestyle relay and 4x200 meter freestyle relay for women.

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Kendrick’s parents Wilson and Kathy and sister Kimberly, also a competitive swimmer, were in the audience to provide support. Kendrick was recently inked to a renewal of his endorsement contract by Speedo.

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No doubt, Speedo Philippines has progressed exponentially since its first store opened in the country in Gaisano Mactan, Cebu, in 1994. Today, Speedo operates 17 stand-alone stores nationwide, including the Glorietta 4 outlet that was inaugurated in 1999. The 18th Speedo store is scheduled to open at the Abreeza Mall in Davao this May. Among the Speedo concept store locations are the Alabang Town Center, Ayala Center Cebu, Bonifacio High Street, Chimes Davao, Marquee Mall in Angeles City, Paseo de Sta. Rosa, Robinsons Place Bacolod, SM City Cebu, SM Mall of Asia and Trinoma.

A popular Speedo store is the outlet at the Paseo de Sta. Rosa strip mall. It’s a favorite of bargain hunters who can’t resist the knocked-down prices of Speedo’s swimwear, accessories and sportswear. 

Speedo Philippines’ growth has so impressed the principals in the London headquarters that the Mahtani family was given the rights to distribute Speedo products in Malaysia through sister company Ikonic Concepts.

Speedo’s history dates back to 1914 when Alexander McRae formed the founding company in Australia. McRae, a Scottish migrant, worked as a milkman before venturing into producing underwear and socks for the Australian army. It was in 1927 when McRae developed a swimming line.

In 1990, the British sportswear company Pentland Group acquired Speedo and welcomed the brand to its head office in London. Pentland used to own Reebok. Pentland’s innovative thinkers then developed a line of products that took off from Speedo’s reputation as a leading swimwear brand. Eventually, Speedo goggles, backpacks, T-shirts, shorts, slippers, aquashoes, underwater MP3 players, wakeboards, skateboards, surfboards, underwater cameras and wrist watches were brought out to the market.a

The latest Speedo collection combines two distinct applications – discovering the future and rediscovering the past. Mahtani said the theme of “discovery” is appropriate as Speedo boasts of over 80 years of heritage and the experience of embracing technology and innovation.

At the moment, Speedo equips 14 national swimming teams, including the US, United Kingdom, Spain, Hong Kong, Canada, Brazil, Japan and Australia. It has a stable of 21 international endorsers including Michael Phelps, Fil-Am Natalie Coughlin, South Korea’s Tae Hwan Park and Italy’s Filippo Magnini.

For the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai this July, Speedo will roll out its competitive “team” collection highlighted by a special seasonal edition of the LZR Racer Comp suit with a commemorative print. The suit features a new water-repellent, quick-drying endurance fabric which was developed in Speedo’s fabled “aqualab.” The suit is available in the male Jammer and female kneeskin and silhouette variants.

Speedo’s reputation as the undisputed leader in competitive swimming is unassailable. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, 13 of 15 new records were posted by swimmers in Speedo suits. At the 2004 Olympics, Phelps hauled in eight medals and in 2008, collected eight gold medals. Everyone knew Phelps couldn’t have done it without Speedo.

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