As swimming authorities wrestle with the performance-enhancing capabilities of the latest hi-tech suits, the AIS has installed new starting blocks that are expected to further lower times in the pool.

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The blocks have been approved for use in major international competitions from next year with AIS head swimming coach Shannon Rollason predicting they could lower times by up to a tenth of a second.

“I would not be surprised by up to a tenth of a second of a better start because you can really use your back foot,” Rollason said.

“It is going to take a little while for swimmers to get used to them.”

Rollason said the adjustable foot rest at the top of the block was designed to suit the individual athlete\’s height and leg length.

Designed of a hard plastic, complete with an adjustable foot rest with five settings, the blocks will make their debut at the Duel in the Pool meet between Japan and Australia on May 9 and 10.

AIS director Peter Fricker said the starting blocks will give Australia\’s swimmers a chance to get used to the blocks before the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.

“Very simple design but obviously to achieve a maximum position for the swimmer when they start,” Fricker said.

Most of the state of the art technology, however, lies beneath the surface.

Each block contains a timing device within each platform which is linked to the starter\’s gun.

“If you break contact with the diving block ahead of the gun of course, then it\’s a false start, so that\’s an automatic now,” said Fricker.

“It also links with the instrumented touch pads which we\’ll see against the wall under the water, and so you can see when the diver leaves the block and the diver gets back, the whole thing\’s registered.

“So it\’s a real sort of enhancement.”

AIS swimmer Ashley Delaney, who has trialled the blocks, said he really liked them.

“I think they\’ll probably remove flipping on blocks altogether from the sport,” he said.

“It\’s a good thing. And I just think they\’ll definitely increase a fair go for all the swimmers.”

Delaney said it would be interesting to see whether the blocks do increase speed.

“They\’ll probably limit mistakes on starts which is a good thing. They might add a tenth here and there but I don\’t think they\’ll make a huge difference.”

However for shorter 50 and 100 metre events, “it\’ll definitely amount to some difference”, he said.