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Team GB were at the centre of another appeal controversy on Thursday night following the three-day eventing saga of 24 hours earlier.
Britain's James Goddard finished fourth in the 200m backstroke final, but was then awarded the bronze medal when the initial winner, world record holder Aaron Peirsol of the USA, was disqualified for exceeding the 15m permitted under water at the 150m turn. But less than 30 minutes later an appeal by Peirsol was upheld and Goddard's brief period of elation was changed back to bitter disappointment.
However, the British and Austrian team managements said they would appeal against this decision to Fina, the world governing body of swimming. “I am extremely disappointed that it [the disqualification] was overturned on a technicality when the infringement was obvious,” said Bill Sweetenham, British performance director. “To have an infringement overturned because of incompetent paperwork is nonsensical.”
As things stand, Markus Rogan of Austria takes the silver and Romania's Razvan Florea the bronze.
There was mystification about the reasons for both the disqualification and the reinstatement. Rogan suggested that the disqualification was for political reasons, pointing out that Peirsol had publicly criticised the Japanese swimmer, Kosuke Kitajima. And Fina's initial statement said the detail of the reason supplied by the official for disqualification was “inadequate and not in the working language of Fina”. Whatever the case, Goddard, 21, was disgusted with himself for losing the second place he had held from the start until the last 20m. He could not explain why he veered into the lane dividers, a deviation that probably cost him at least bronze, and perhaps silver. “I went out too hard, I was very nervous, and keen to stay with Aaron,” he said.
His colleague, Gregor Taitt finished seventh. Meanwhile, Katy Sexton qualified for Friday night's final of the women's 200m backstroke.
When Peirsol's appeal was upheld, giving him a second gold medal after winning the 100m backstroke, the evening belonged even more to the US squad. Amanda Beard won the latest US-Australia tussle, beating Leisl Jones in the 200m breaststroke.
And then Michael Phelps underlined again that, although the prognosis of eight golds was, as Ian Thorpe pointed out, beyond anyone, he has an extraordinary capacity to rise to a challenge. He won his fourth gold of the Games with victory in the 200m individual medley. Half an hour later, he set another Olympic record in the qualifiers for Friday night's 100m butterfly. Britain's James Hickman, alas, was eliminated.
Roland Mark Shoemann demonstrated the sprint capability that only just failed to net him gold in the 100m freestyle on Wednesday, when he dominated proceedings in the 50m event, leading the qualifiers for Friday night's final, with a time of 21.99secs. The South African was the revelation of the 4x100m relay on Sunday, when his scintillating swimming in the event's opening legs heralded the world record that won gold for his country.