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Aussies off to a flyer with new blocks

AUSTRALIA'S swimmers are being given the chance to pinch an early advantage over their international rivals by installing angled starting blocks, the sport's latest innovation to lower times, at the national Institute of Sport (AIS).

The revolutionary new blocks include an adjustable rear footrest, similar to the system runners use, allowing swimmers to make a much faster getaway.

The starting blocks have been approved by the sport's world governing body FINA for use in international competition from 2010 onwards, but the AIS has already installed them to give Australia's swimmers a head start.

"Australian swimmers can now adapt to the new technology which will become the status quo for all international events in the future," AIS Director Peter Fricker said.

The new blocks were trialled at a World Cup meet in Sweden last year and used as a display at the Olympic pool in Beijing and Australian officials have been given permission to use them at next month's duel against Japan.

No one is quite sure exactly how much advantage the blocks will give the swimmers but most expect another flood of world records once competitors work out the best way to use them. "I would not be surprised by up to a tenth of a second of a better start," AIS head swimming coach Shannon Rollason said.


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