If all goes well at a site visit by makers Omega next week, the newly-approved backstroke start wedges will make their USA Swimming major debut at the Mesa Grand Prix in April, and be seen again at the Santa Clara Grand Prix in June.
“That is our goal,” USA Swimming Assistant Executive Director Mike Unger, and swim meet operations guru, told us today. “We are working with Omega to have them used at the Mesa and Santa Clara Arena Grand Prix meets.”
The “wedges” were approved by FINA at last summer’s new rules committee meetings in Barcelona in July, but as with any new equipment it takes some time for development to be completed, and for further testing, before it can logistically be used in competition.
The purpose of the new wedges is to give a more standardized starting foot placement for backstrokers. With different pool designs and different types (and qualities) of touch pads, it can create an inconsistent starting surface for backstrokers. The hope is that these new wedges will decrease the incidence of slips on backstroke starts, which are not uncommon even at high level meets.
With the combination of these new blocks, as well as the recent addition of vertical gripping handles, the start continues to become a more-and-more explosive part of the backstroke race.
Below are photos from demonstrations of the new wedges that Myrtha Pools and Omega developed; images are from the 2012 World Short Course Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.