A miscommunicated false start has caused havoc at the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships on Friday night.
In an unbelievable turn of events, Australia’s Isaac Cooper had his victory in the men’s 50m backstroke thrown out after the race was scrapped because of a starting error.
Initially, it appeared Italian Lorenzo Mora had triggered a false start, however it was later determined a technical error with the official starter was the reason.
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A re-swim of the event occur later in the session after half the field completed the full distance at race pace without realizing the sprint had been abandoned.
Remarkably, a signaling rope at the 15m-mark failed to drop to notify the swimmers of the penalty.
“They’ve got to notify the athletes. This is rubbish. They have to notify them,” Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe said in commentary for Nine’s Wide World of Sports in the immediate aftermath.
“There should’ve been a drop [of the rope]. This is a false start at the 15m-mark, so all athletes should have known. There is a huge disadvantage to those who have continued.
“There was a 15m lane rope line that should’ve dropped to actually indicate a false start.”
As soon as all swimmers had returned to the wall, discussions soon turned to the competition’s protocol.
The FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) will be broadcast exclusively live and free on Nine and 9Now from December 13-18.
Confusion rained supreme with the participants unsure whether they should exit the pool or prepare to race again.
“It would be completely unreasonable to expect the athletes that have swum 50m in this race to go again when there were four athletes on the outside [lanes] who haven’t.
Reporting poolside, Australian swimming great Giaan Rooney described the fallout as “chaos”.
Finishing first of the athletes that continued in a personal best time, Cooper appeared shocked upon realizing his blistering performance would not count.
“You could see how shocked he was,” Thorpe said.
“No-one was cheering after he looked up at the board, and saw that he’d won the race, Isaac Cooper, so he was confused. Then someone broke the news to him (that the result wouldn’t count) and it was a look of disbelief on his face.
“He’s technically just become world champion and now has to do this race again,” added Ariarne Titmus in commentary for Nine.
“I have never seen this happen before.”
World Athletics later announced the race would be re-swam after a 30 minute break, allowing the athletes to complete a full warm-down and reset ahead of the final.
“In the fact for an athlete like Isaac, who isn’t the most experienced in the field, that can play a huge mental challenge to overcome,” Rooney said.
“To say, ‘I know I swam fast, that’s a confidence booster, but I also just exerted all my energy. I now have to warm down from that. I now have to make sure I don’t get cold. I’m wet. I have to try and get dry again.’ All of these things play on an athlete’s mind.
Cooper was later edged by American Ryan Murphy in the rerun of the event by 0.09.
Aussie edged in unprecedented re-swim
The 18-year-old’s previous time from the first swim would have won him gold and set a new world junior record.
Only a tenth of a second separated second to fifth place.
“It’s Murphy ahead of Cooper in an absolute nail-biter,” Nine commentator Mat Thompson said.
“You’ve got to feel for Isaac Cooper here.”
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