Equipment failures plague men's 100 backstroke at worlds

Italy's Simone Sabbioni starts to race alone in his men's 100m backstroke heat following equipment issues at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Monday, July 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

GWANGJU, South Korea — Equipment malfunctions plagued the preliminary heats of the men's 100-meter backstroke at the world swimming championships on Monday.

Simone Sabbioni of Italy and Dylan Carter of Trinidad and Tobago both experienced problems with the wedge, a device used to gain leverage off the wall during a backstroke start.

"This should not be happening at any meet, far less the world championships," Carter said.

The backstroke wedge allows a swimmer to put their weight onto an angled piece of material to push off, rather than trying to grip their feet onto a flat wall at the end of the pool.

Carter was allowed to swim a second time, doing so alone. His time of 54.03 seconds was good enough to advance to the semifinals.

"When I found out I was getting another chance I had my suit off so I had to put on another suit and get ready," he said. "It's unfortunate and it's not fair to me that I have to swim twice to make the semifinal."

Compared with Sabbioni, however, Carter seemingly got off easy.

Sabbioni, speaking in Italian, said he informed officials something felt wrong with the wedge before his heat, but they checked it and assured him it was fine. After his bungled start it was obvious the straps had given out and caused him to fall backward into the water.

He was then allowed a second attempt alone in the pool, but the equipment failed again. On his third try, he finished in 53.85 and advanced to the semifinals.

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