The launch of the newly-approved “backstroke wedges” for starts has been delayed even further, and USA Swimming won’t be using them at the upcoming Santa Clara Grand Prix.
Though the wedges are approved for competition in 2014, FINA sent out a letter last week recommending that meet hosts not use them until this fall, when FINA plans a full launch at the World Cup Series.
FINA also said that they will decide at that World Cup Series whether or not to use them at the 2014 Short Course World Championships in Doha, which is the next big FINA championship on the schedule.
The wedges were initially considered for use in Mesa and Charlotte, but there were concerns over the compatibility of Omega wedges with other brands of blocks. Now, other companies have designed similar wedges.
FINA’s justification for the delay is the fact that the wedges are not commercially available yet, so “in order to promote equity among all competitors,” they don’t yet want it used at national or international events. While FINA did not specifically prohibit their use, this recommendation will weigh heavily, so don’t expect them at meets like U.S. Nationals, Pan Pacs, the European Championships, or the Commonwealth Games, either.
While Omega seems to have been the first-to-market with their new wedges, several other brands have since launched wedges of their own, meaning that backstroke wedges now exist that will fit blocks at the Mesa and Charlotte Grand Prixs. More time before a full launch will also allow for more equal competition between wedge manufacturers on the quality of the product.
See a video demonstration of the wedge start blocks here.