While Sonic The Hedgehog has never exactly been considered one of gaming’s more notable swimmers, apparently he is far less skilled at swimming than we ever thought.
A quick image search will result in pictures of the speedy hedgehog from Mario & Sonic at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, clearly showing Sonic wearing a life vest during a swimming event. The same can also be said for the earlier title in the series, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008.
Sonic’s ability to swim - if you can even call it that - is pretty excruciating to watch. He essentially floats with his head above the water and runs vertically down the swimming lane.
One could theoretically argue that Sonic is fast enough to actually run on top of water. For what it’s worth, he actually does just that in 2014’s Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, which was released nearly a year and a half prior to Mario & Sonic at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. However, he is able to do so only through the use of a power up, which would probably be forbidden during the Olympic Games.
Real-life hedgehogs are reportedly decent swimmers if need be, though hedgehogs that actually enjoy swimming are apparently pretty rare.
Now that we have a little more insight into the live-action Sonic The Hedgehog movie and the “interesting” design of its namesake character, it would be interesting to see how Sonic - and his newly proportioned limbs - fares in an underwater scene. Based on the more life-like (and creepy) design, it would seem that he may be able to swim a bit better than in the video games.
At any rate, it may not be much of a surprised to see Sonic in a life vest, considering his slower speeds in the Sonic The Hedgehog series’ water levels - not to mention the burden of needing to breathe (The stressful low-oxygen music that starts when Sonic needs to find an air bubble still gives us anxiety just thinking about it). But a life vest in the Olympic Games? Seems like Sonic should probably have just skipped that event.