USA Swimming Hopes to Unveil Backstroke Wedges at Mesa Grand Prix

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.

Courtesy: Myrtha Pools

Courtesy: Myrtha Pools

Courtesy: Myrtha Pools

Courtesy: Myrtha Pools

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WORST idea ever…what is wrong with the current backstroke starts?? This will only increase the cost to clubs who want to have “relevant” starting equipment. Stupid, stupid idea.


the sport of swimming is evolving, being a swimmer myself, i have found that the addition of the wedge on the blocks for a dive start has been terrific! if dive starts have managed to evolve why cant the backstroke starts? Watching races where someone slips just because of a slippery starting pad are terrible, this would completely even things up and the swimming would have to do the talking! I’m all for it!


I’ve 15, have swam for 11 years, have 5 junior national times, and 4 All American Titles. Backstroke is my best stroke, I still slip at some meets. Even if you have good technique the walls/touch pads can be very slippery and you can slip and there thats a second you wont get back. You should understand what you are talking about before saying anything.


And the whole “this will eliminate slipping” argument is BS. If you don’t want to slip on your backstroke start, learn proper technique and get your hips below your shoulders.


I have not been around swimming for that long, but combined athlete and coach time is 23 years. I have never seen anyone get their hips above their shoulders on a backstroke start, that is until they left the blocks…

How do you know this won’t work? Have you used it?

Coaches will still have to teach backstroke starts. Putting this thing in doesn’t remove the element of teaching a proper backstroke start.


You’re an idiot. People slip all the time because the touch pads are not always sticky or have a good surface. You probably dont swim and are a scrub


Making the comment to learn proper technique is pretty poor and in my mind antagonistic. As part of a club with aging touch pads, and for outdoor pools that have little storage space and possible sun and heat exposure to worry about, the swimmers out in lanes 1 and 8 that get stuck with the aging, warped, and slippery pads are at a severe disadvantage. Your comment suggests that David Plummer and Elizabeth Beisel should just learn proper starting technique since they both slipped off their starts at major competitions that cost them medals. I don’t think they need to learn how to do their starts right since they are world class backstrokers. To add the backstroke ledge evens the… Read more »


From what I can see, it’s not really going to eliminate the whole slipping theory all together, but just helping with better starts. I remember during nationals last year, they were talking about this and the swimmers that demoed it were impressed with their starts thanks to this. I think Braden wrote the article or knows which one I’m talking about.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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