Tech Tuesday: New Starting Block Tested at World Championships


Tech Tuesday: New Starting Block Tested at World Championships

Fans watching major swimming competitions over the years have become accustomed to a similar starting block, typically blue with white on the side and metallic silver backstroke handles. This block, part of the Omega Timing system, is in use at all global-level competitions (with the blue base turning red for the Tokyo Olympics and this summer’s World Championships) plus national-level and college championship meets in the United States. The block has five different settings for the track-start ledge, and the backstroke wedge is designed to fit into this block.

However, the design could be getting an update soon. At the previous two editions of the World Championships, last year in Budapest and again last month in Fukuoka, athletes had a chance to test out the new prototype in the warmup pool. Dutch sprinter Nyls Korstanje, the fifth-place finisher in the 100 butterfly at this year’s Worlds and a standout at North Carolina State University, posted a short video to Instagram of his test run of this block from last year.

Korstanje pointed fans to the handles on the side of the block and the new light strip at the edge. The handles are akin to numerous starting-block systems used in competition pools throughout the United States, giving swimmers the option to either grab the front of the block (the more traditional style) or the side, which could provide a more efficient method for the upper body to generate power on the start.

The strip is designed to flash as soon as “go” is signaled. In theory, a visual starting cue might be faster than an auditory one because light travels so much faster than sound. Over such a short distance from the starting signal to the actual blocks, the difference might be miniscule, but the margins in swimming are often miniscule, so swimmers might like this addition.

It’s unclear when this block would be adopted for use in competition. In his post, Korstanje suggested it could be used at next year’s Paris Olympics. Such a change would mark the third major revolution in starting technology in the past 15 years, joining the introduction of the track-start ledge in late 2009 and the backstroke wedge in late 2014.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x