Photo by Griffin Scott
Editorial coverage for U.S. Senior Nationals proudly sponsored by Master Spas!
Commentary by Jeff Commings
IRVINE, California, August 7. WHEN Bonnie Brandon slipped on the start of the 200 backstroke in the B final at the USA Swimming nationals, my heart sank. I had barely recovered when Elizabeth Beisel did the same thing in the championship final.
You could hear a pin drop in the first 15 seconds of the 200 back final at the William Woollett Aquatic Center. No one could believe what they saw, or were just too speechless.
If FINA hadn’t stalled on the implementation of the backstroke starting ledge, Beisel and Brandon (as well as Nolan Brown in the men’s event) would have had very different outcomes tonight. Every backstroker tries not to think about slipping on the start, but the danger is there. The backstroke ledge takes the danger out of the equation.
At the 2013 USA Swimming nationals, I was one of the first in the United States to test out the ledge:
FINA approved the backstroke start ledge a week before the 2013 world championships, and its bylaws stipulate that a newly-approved rule goes into effect 60 days after the vote. But FINA wants to give the world more time to learn about it use, and possibly create protocol to ensure proper implementation. The Mesa stop of the Arena Grand Prix was scheduled to be its American debut, then it was pushed back to the Santa Clara meet before FINA pulled back on the reins and set the debut for this fall’s World Cup series.
That means we won’t see them at the Pan Pacific championships, which means the coaches of all the teams swimming in the Gold Coast in two weeks will need to warn their swimmers to be cautious on their backstroke starts. It’s one thing to slip at nationals. It’s an entirely different situation when it happens at the international level.
Elizabeth Beisel stopped by the mixed zone after the 200 back, and called the slip “an age-grouper mistake” and that “Olympians make mistakes, too.” A mistake in a backstroke race is hitting the lane line or misjudging the flags. I suppose slipping on the start can be avoided, but why can’t backstrokers have the same security on their start that those swimming other strokes have? Thankfully, that time is almost here.