"Quiet for the start, please." Five words universally heard around swimming pools, from rec leagues to high school to the Olympics. Someone didn't heed the request on Saturday night in London.
A spectator shouted while the eight men in the 1,500 freestyle final were in their starting crouches, causing the starter to ask the swimmers to stand up in order to begin the starting process again. Sun Yang, the No. 1 seed, only heard the starter's voice and reacted like it was the starting tone. He dove into the pool while his competitors stood up and, for a moment, it looked like he might be disqualified for going too early. Announcers on NBC's live streaming feed -- hardly authorities on swimming rules and regulations, if you've had the displeasure of listening this week -- thought Sun was done.
[Photos: Underwater photos from Olympic pool]
It's not illegal to react to a starter command after "take your marks," so Sun Yang was merely embarrassed, confused and wet earlier than the rest of the field, that's all.
He got back up, took a brief seat behind his lane and went on to win the gold medal and shatter a world record in the process.
Still, you have to wonder what Sun was thinking when he reacted so quickly to the starter. He was clearly wound up tight and ready to explode off the block. This is necessary in most Olympic races, particularly sprints like the 50 free. But Sun Yang was competing in the longest race at the Olympics; it takes 14 minutes and 30 laps of the pool. He won by 8.5 seconds! He could have jumped into the pool holding his nose and pushed off with a kickboard and still have come in first. Risking a false start doesn't seem to be worth it, no?
Here's why we're showing you only a photo. Because of NBC's exclusive rights to broadcast the Olympics, other media outlets prohibited from running video highlights.
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