It must be the water. The world championships had not yet started in Perth, but the complaints continued. U.S. swimmers, who earlier used strong words to describe the way the sport is administered at home, joined their officials yesterday in calling for changes to the starting blocks in Perth, claiming the current blocks could prevent world records.

World record-holders Matt Biondi and Tom Jager and U.S. team director Dennis Pursley said the design of the Perth blocks would force all swimmers to change their starting techniques.

"It would be unfortunate for Perth if they were to lose some potential world records because of the blocks," Pursley said.

He said the technical committee of FINA, which runs international swimming, has been asked to change the blocks. A FINA news conference is scheduled for today.

Competition began this morning (Wednesday night EDT) with Fu Mingxia of China leading the preliminaries in women's platform diving with 170.85 points from the first half of eight dives. Kim Chun Ok of North Korea was second with 166.68, just ahead of Olympic gold medalist Xu Yanmei of China, with 166.20.

American Wendy Williams, the Seoul bronze medalist, was fourth with 165.90. Cokey Smith, the second U.S. diver, was 15th in the 25-woman field, with the last four preliminary dives set for later in the day.

The top 12 finishers in the preliminaries move into Friday's final.