When Swedish superstar Sarah Sjostrom and the others dive into the pool during the upcoming World Aquatics Swimming World Cup, they will be racing in ideal conditions for posting fast times under fair conditions for all competitors.
Playing an essential but often overlooked role will be the wave-reducing Malmsten Gold Pro® lane lines. Developed by the family-run company bearing the name of the husband-and-wife duo of Tommy and Margareta Malmsten, the company’s swimming racing lanes made their debut on the major international swimming stage at the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games.
Since then, Malmsten racing lane lanes have frequented the pools of major international swimming competitions such as the World Aquatics Championships, European Championships, and the Olympic Games. Since 2009, World Aquatics events have exclusively relied on Malmsten lane lines at all competitions.
Swimming Roots |From the Local Pool and Kitchen Table to a Worldwide Company
With his roots in competitive swimming, first as an active swimmer and then as a Swedish national team coach, Tommy Malmsten had a good intuition for the products needed in the swimming industry. In the early 1970s, one of Sweden’s rising talents was Anne-Sofi Carlsson (Roos). Training out of the local club of Kristianstad SLS, Anne-Sofi had a particular problem: she was allergic to neoprene, which was used in every single swimming goggle at the time.
As an industrious civil engineer for the city of Åhus for his day job, Tommy saw this problem as an opportunity to solve for his swimmer. He soon got to work. With a friend with manufacturing experience in the Swedish telecommunications industry, Tommy made moulds for swimming goggles.
Unlike the goggles on the market at that time, Tommy’s goggles were sleek, adjustable, and low friction. Not only was Tommy’s creation faster, but these goggles also felt better. Rather than one size fits all, athletes could customise them to their faces for a better and more secure fit. Most importantly for Anne-Sofi, these new goggles didn’t have a hint of neoprene.
As the saying goes, good news travels fast. With Anne-Sofi and most of the top Swedes using these goggles, other swimmers soon took notice. Soon, the Malmsten family phone was at the receiving end of calls from all around the globe, athletes asking if they could get their hands on a pair of their goggles.
Around the kitchen table, Tommy and Margareta started assembling swimming goggles. From a local athlete’s need came an international success: the Swedish Goggles were born.
While the Malmsten’s didn’t patent or trademark their design – “We were a bit naïve about business back then” admits Margareta – the Malmsten design is still the original gold standard for Swedish Goggles.
Fifty years later, Malmsten still produces these goggles – for its own company line and many other swimming equipment manufacturers – using the same moulds Tommy and his friend manufactured back in the 1970s.
Taming Turbulence in the Water | Moving from Pool Floats to the Malmsten Gold Racing Lane Line
Around the time of refining the Swedish Goggle, Tommy was also looked to tame the waters of the local swimming pool. With leisure swimmers sharing the pool as the local swimming club Kristianstad Simsällskap trained under Tommy’s tutelage, complaints about the waves the swimmers generated got Tommy thinking and tinkering.
At the time, swim lanes were divided by simple lines with floats on them. These lane dividers did little – or nothing – to calm the waves swimmers created.
Facing potential eviction from the local pool, Tommy got to work on improving the environment for his swimmers by designing a more robust lane design. By 1974 the family business by the name of Malmsten AB was now firmly in the wave-reducing lane line industry.
In 1975, Tommy and Margareta established a licensing agreement with Kiefer NcNeil, an Akron, Ohio (USA)-based company that owned patent rights to lane divider technology that acted as a wave breaker in the pool.
After years of successful partnership, the Malmsten’s decided to part ways with first Kiefer McNeil, later Richey Industries, when the company changed ownership. Over this time, Tommy kept pushing his wave-reducing ideas forward. In 1991, and just in time for the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, Malmsten AB launched the Gold Racing Lane Line.
With an improving level of athletes and a new circular, spinning lane line that measured 150mm in diameter captured the wave energy swimmers generated much better than before. During those eight summer days in Spain, nine swimming World Records and 48 Olympic Records (including heats) were eclipsed in Barcelona’s Piscines Bernat Picornell.
More Than a Decade in the Making | Improving Upon Malmsten’s Prestige Product with the Gold Pro®
Improving on an industry-redefining product takes time – and plenty of research and development. In the case of swimming racing lines, the Malmsten’s worked for over a decade with Jakob Kuttenkeuler, a professor of hydrology at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, to lower the wake swimmers produce in their lane. The result of all this work is the Malmsten Gold Pro®.
With redesigned discs and floats that capture over 90 percent of wave dispersion, since 2019 the Malmsten Gold Pro® lane lines are what you’ll see at all the top international swimming meets, including the World Aquatics Championships – Fukuoka 2023 where swimmers set 10 World Records.
With the World Aquatics Swimming World Cup 2023 season imminent – and the World Aquatics Championships – Doha 2024 and Paris 2024 Olympic Games close on the horizon – look for Malmsten lane lines to do more than mark a swimmer’s course. They will help them swim faster than ever before – and will do so with durability and sustainability built directly into each piece.
Fittingly for a family-owned and run company, every Malmsten racing line is produced in Åhus, Sweden – just as they have been for over 50 years.
While Åhus was once known as the “source of three Swedish sins” – snuff, schnapps and a surfeit of eels, today the village along the Baltic Sea is better known as home to two top companies trading in water – Absolut Vodka and Malmsten AB.
“At Malmsten, we are proud to be at the forefront of racing lane line development. As swimmers ourselves, we understand the importance of supplying the best possible equipment,” said Margareta. “A fraction of a second can be the difference between a gold, a silver, or even a World Record.”
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