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Fourth-Place Medal

South Korean gold medalist reinstated into 400 free after controversial disqualification

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

(Getty Images)

Defending gold medalist and world-record holder Park Tae-hwan had his controversial disqualification in the 400 freestyle overturned Saturday afternoon and will race in the event's final later in the evening.

The South Korean had touched first in his heat of the 400 free but was disqualified after the race when officials determined that he flinched on the starting block. He was confused about the reason for the disqualification.

[ Photos: London 2012 Opening Ceremony ]

"I don't know why," he told reporters after an official informed him of the decision. "I need to speak to my coach to find out."

NBC announcers were equally baffled. Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines called the entire race without knowing of the DQ. It was hard to blame them; watching the replay, it was impossible to see anything wrong with Park's start. He bent backward while dipping into his racing position, but there were no obvious signs of anything illegal.

An immediate appeal to the competition referee was rejected. The Korean Swimming Federation then asked for an emergency meeting of FINA's Jury of Appeal. That body issued a ruling that Park's flinch had not occurred until after the starter had asked racers to take their marks.

The ruling said:

The FINA Jury of Appeal met today in the Aquatics Centre and examined the protest lodged by the Korean Swimming Federation regarding the disqualification of swimmer Park Tae-Hwan in the heats of the men's 400m freestyle, and based on the recommendation of the FINA Technical Swimming Commission decided to reinstate the above mentioned swimmer in the final of the men's 400m freestyle.

Park's reinstatement means that the original eighth-place qualifier, Canada's Ryan Cochrane, was bumped from the final. It's a cruel turn for Cochrane, who spent five hours believing he'd be competing in Saturday night's final and ended up missing out on the eighth spot by .01 seconds.

[ Related: Opening Ceremony mystery solved ]

Ironically, the South Korean was disqualified in Athens as a 14-year-old when he fell into the water off the block.

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