Michael Phelps scraped into a 400m medley showdown with Ryan Lochte and South Korean hero Park Tae-Hwan was disqualified then reinstated on a turbulent opening day of Olympic swimming competition on Saturday Park, whose 400m freestyle victory in Beijing was South Korea’s first Olympicswimming gold, touched first in his heat but was stunned tolook up and see the scoreboard showing he was disqualified.
A South Korean appeal was rejected by the competition referee. But FINA’s jury of appeal overturned the disqualification on the advice of their own technical commission, although a FINA spokesman declined to elaborate on the reasons for the reversal.
Park’s time of 3:46.68 made him the fourth-fastest in the heats led by Chinese rival Sun Yang. His appearance in the final later will leave Canada’s Ryan Cochrane, who thought he had secured the eighth and last spot for the medal race, out in the cold, raising the prospect of a Canadian protest before the first finals session.
Park’s rollercoaster day followed drama for 14-time Olympic gold medallist Phelps, who won his 400m medley heat only to find his leisurely time of 4min 13.33sec put him into the final by the skin of his teeth in eighth place. Hungarian Laszlo Cseh, who earned silver behind Phelps in Beijing and bronze in Athens, was second in that heat and didn’t make the final, in which Kosuke Hagino led the way.
Phelps insisted his lacklustre qualifying performance didn’t rule him out of gold medal contention.