World Champion Rivolta Suffered Biceps Tendon Injury After Backstroke Device Fails at Euros

During the last day of competition at the recent Short Course European Championships in Otopeni, the 2021 World Champion in the 100 fly Matteo Rivolta experienced a dangerous incident with a backstroke starting wedge.

Although Rivolta’s main stroke is butterfly (he is the Italian Record holder in the 50 and 100 fly in long course), he has proven to be a competent backstroker in recent seasons, particularly shining in this discipline during the ISL Championships.

Rivolta says a backstroke wedge device in the warmup pool failed during practice starts, leading to his injury.

“I was warming up for the 4×50 mixed medley relay and tried some backstroke starts. The first one went well, but in the second, the device came off, and the rigid part hit me on the arm,” said Matteo.

It’s unclear whether the device was incorrectly inserted by someone or if it malfunctioned, but the hook’s failure struck the swimmer on his left bicep.

“I thought I had just bruised it, and in agreement with the national team doctor, we decided to compete in the relay heat because my withdrawal would have prevented the entire team from competing (Italy won the gold medal in the afternoon final). However, I didn’t know that my arm had suffered damage, and from the start, I felt intense pain that worsened with each stroke.”

Rivolta Matteo Injury. courtesy of Matteo Rivolta

Rivolta Matteo Injury. courtesy of Matteo Rivolta

After completing his leg of the relay, Rivolta remained in the water for the entire duration of the relay, holding his arm without being able to exit. The arm quickly began to swell and turn blue due to internal bleeding.

Rivolta flew back to Italy that same evening, where he underwent an MRI that revealed a second-degree injury to the distal biceps tendon.

The injury didn’t require surgery, but the Italian swimmer is undergoing therapy to reduce the injury. Currently, there are no specific timelines for his recovery.


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3 months ago

Tendon damage is a life long thing and not something he will ever fully recover from. Swimming takes a toll on Bicep tendons anyway. This is terrible and what is this wedge device?

3 months ago

The wedges were all made to help backstrokers not slip. But instead, many of the swimmers will literally stand (or put all of their weight) on them. They were never designed for that. And that’s when we see the issues.

3 months ago

These wedges are always a little sketchy. They help so much — so they’re great to use — but they’re always stressful b/c of the potential for failure. At least with the retractable Colorado ledges, the worst thing that can happen is the wedge slips down and the start is ruined — but you’re not getting struck by a flying projectile.

Reply to  swimgeek
3 months ago

Want to bet? Ever see one explode on a start and pieces go all over

3 months ago

My imagination keeps visualizing some sort of built-in triangular wedge, which lies flush with the wall. Maybe a small hole or finger grip will allow the swimmer to pull it out for backstroke, but once the feet leave the wedge, it will automatically pop back flush with the wall. I’m sure this is just a fantasy, and there are probably eight reasons why this hasn’t already been done. But what I’ve seen cobbled together at different locations does not seem to have reached the zenith of technology.

3 months ago

Those wedges need stability updates!! FMC’s wedges fell on a kid’s face twice in warmup THEN the wedge moved at the start of the final and got DQ’d

Reply to  SSNP
3 months ago

Omg yes! I swam at FMC for multiple meets these past seasons and have seen so many screw up on starts because of those wedges.

3 months ago

That’s a really nasty bruise.

3 months ago

That’s horrible. Hope he gets some sort of compensation given that it was clearly pool equipment failure.

Reply to  SwimmerNotSwammer
3 months ago

These backstroke devices are great when they work, but still have too much risk of failure. Often minor, but sometimes with serious injuries to an athlete. We’ve all seen it happen, right?

Reply to  JBS
3 months ago

Maybe I’m just old my college swimming days ended in 1991. But what the hell is a backstroke device? Like I thought all starting blocks were kind of solid and tried and truue

About Aglaia Pezzato

Aglaia Pezzato

Cresce a Padova e dintorni dove inizialmente porta avanti le sue due passioni, la danza classica e il nuoto, preferendo poi quest’ultimo. Azzurrina dal 2007 al 2010 rappresenta l’Italia con la nazionale giovanile in diverse manifestazioni internazionali fino allo stop forzato per due delicati interventi chirurgici. 2014 Nel 2014 fa il suo esordio …

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