Italy Appeals Medley Relay Result After Backstroke Wedge Malfunction


Italy appealed the results of Thursday’s mixed 4×50 medley relay after the team’s coach says the backstroke starting wedge gave way under leadoff man Simone Sabbionithough the appeal was ultimately rejected.

SwimSwam’s Giusy Cisale spoke to Italian head coach Cesaro Butini, who said that the wedge gave out under Sabbioni during the relay final Thursday night. Here is a rough translation of Butini’s quote:

“Part of the device support gave way. This created a moment of discomfort and a problem for the athlete who completely lost his support. He could not therefore give the right push for departure.

In my opinion there was a problem of non-intervention by a judge. There the only possible solution is that there must have been a timely intervention by the judge to stop the race and it was not done.

At the end of the race we made sure of this with video footage and also talking with the athletes. We had the certainty that this disadvantaged the athlete and we immediately resorted to the TSC (Technical Swimming Comittee) Commission, which was present in the pool floor.

The appeal was ultimately rejected based on a lack of proof that equipment malfunction negatively impacted the start. But Butini said that the next morning, a new “security system” had been equipped to the backstroke starting wedges to better lock the wedge into place.

Italy ultimately finished 8th in the mixed medley relay final, with Sabbioni’s 24.96 backstroke split coming in well behind the top male backstrokers in the field. (Other splits for men were 22.89, 22.94, 22.94 and 24.25). Italy was 1.68 seconds out of bronze and 1.72 out of gold

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Tea rex

Unfortunate for Italy, but this was the right call. You can’t redo a race after it has finished.

Is there video? If wedge broke before the race, I think it is on the swimmer to alert the officials. If it broke on the start, you can’t expect the race to be stopped because one swimmer had a bad start.

JP input is too short

That’s what they do for false starts though…


No… That’s what they USED To do for false starts. Now the swimmer is simply DQ’d and the race continues as is.


If the block fell down as u dove in they would have a restart I bet


I’m not sure if everyone can watch this video but at 2 hours and 14 mins you can see the Italian clearly slip at the start. It’s not clear whether it’s human error or a problem with the equipment though but how likely is it for someone to slip on the wall whilst using a backstroke starting wedge?

Daniel Carr

Yes definitely something wrong on the start there, clearly see him slip down the wall and not propel himself away

Mike Anderson

Thanks for the link to the video. I agree it is clear he slipped, but unclear there was equipment malfunction. I looks like the swimmer is not properly focusing on his start, as he takes up the starting position he glances across at the other swimmers. At the “take your marks” command he pulls himself up very high. I would say the slip is more than likely due to poor technique.

Tea rex

A couple years ago, Elizabeth Beisel slipped on her start for the 200 back. Obvious – like, zero forward motion slip.

There was no wedge or equiment malfunction, but still – should the officials have restarted the race, just in case her bad start was because of a slippery/faulty/broken pad?

No. They shouldn’t have. It sucks, but it’s part of life and you have to roll with it.

das swimmer

sounds like an excuse to me. his start looks perfectly fine in the picture above. no malfunction apparent.


Sabbioni was in lane 8. for the medley relay, i.e an external lane.
No relation with the picture above


you should have seen the start. it was heartbreaking to look at, seriously.
massive respect to him for actually going a 24.9 after a complete dead start.
i watched the “start” multiple times back and would guess he would have been more than 2 full seconds faster if the start went right.
which means the italians would have won the gold by a quite a margin.
(also im neither italian, nor particularly a big fan of italian swimming, so this is my unbiased opinion)

David Berkoff

Of course the appeal was rejected. FINA is sponsored by Omega and Omega is trying to monopolize the market on timing equipment — most recently with their NCAA deal which requires Omega equipment to be used at all NCAA championship events. Their wedge is a lousy product and had FINA granted the Italian protest it would have highlighted this problem.


Hopefully, the wedge design is improved to avoid this happening much more.

Coach John

what is the flaw you think they need to fix? this is the first instance of a problem with the wedge I have seen since it’s inception.


First: This is not a FINA event.
Second: This is not Omega equipment.
I would have been more than happy if they had used Omega products instead.


They use Microplus Timing here in Copenhagen, which is an Italian company. The blocks and backstroke ledges were handmade just for this event. There were quite a few incidents of ledge malfunction in the backstroke races (I.e. 200 back men’s final). In the morning, most of the swimmers were allowed to re-swim, not though in the evening. The ledges have been modified during the competition to reduce the probability of malfunction…
All pretty bad for the swimmers, as the original design clearly was not as sturdy as it needs to be in order to deal with the force elite backstrokers can generate…
Btw, LEN President Barelli seems to be involved in Microplus…

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson just can’t stay away from the pool. A competitive career of almost two decades wasn’t enough for this Minnesotan, who continues to get his daily chlorine fix. A lifelong lover of writing, Jared now combines the two passions as Senior Reporter for, covering swimming at every level. He’s an …

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