2019 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
Myrtha Pools, the manufacturer of the backstroke ledges in use at the 2019 FINA World Championships, say it is working with Omega (which provides the design specifications) to improve them in light of a series of malfunctions on the second morning of the meet. The company says the ledges in use at Worlds, however, are not a different model than has been used before.
Throughout the heats of the women’s and men’s 100 back prelim races Monday in Gwangju, it became clear that a number of swimmers were struggling with the backstroke ledge system. Multiple heats saw the field stand down as officials tended to swimmers who had difficulties with the ledge.
Sabbioni was granted a solo re-swim and moved from lane six to lane five. But in his second attempt, the same thing happened: something appeared to go wrong with the wedge and he again stopped before he could accelerate off the wall at all. In rewatching his second failed start, you can see the straps holding the wedge give out entirely, and the ledge drops inches down the wall. Trinidad and Tobago’s Dylan Carter was also granted a re-swim; he made the final, and 18 swimmers (versus the usual 16) were allowed to race.
“It should be noted that the device was designed as an “assist” to the backstroke start and was never intended to be used as a platform,” Myrtha Pools USA Chairman Trevor Tiffany told SwimSwam in an email.
Notably, Sabbioni’s backstroke start position is more horizontal than we typically see; he sticks his lower back out fairly far while keeping his head in toward the block. Sabbioni’s start position could put more weight on the ledge than it is perhaps built for, and Tiffany noted that Sabbioni had apparently had a similar issue at the European Championships earlier this year.
FINA initially told athletes it would get rid of the ledges altogether the semifinals, but after that decision saw heavy disapproval, coaches met and decided that every athlete’s ledge would be kept on the same (fully extended) setting, and that fixed the issue for the time being.