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  Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 17:41 GMT 18:41 UK
Chaos reigns in Japan
Australian head coach Don Talbot makes himself heard
Australian head coach Don Talbot makes himself heard
BBC Sport's Bob Ballard reports on the fourth day of the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka

Farce, cock-up, chaotic - call it what you will.

Wednesday 25 July will not go down in the swimming history books as a day when the sport covered itself in glory.

True, we had Ian Thorpe's superb world record in the 200m freestyle, his one minute 44.06 seconds just too good for Pieter van den Hoogenband.

But, sadly, that was all overshadowed by what followed.

Spiralling out of control

The women's 4x200m freestyle relay race looked straight forward enough.

Australia took it comfortably from the USA, with the British quartet of Nicola Jackson, Janine Belton, Karen Legg and Karen Pickering setting a new national record of seven mins 58.69 for the bronze medal.

Technology and the interference of the Fina judges then sent the whole thing spiralling out of control.

First America were disqualified for a faulty takeover by Cristina Teuscher on the second leg.

Shortly afterwards it was Australia's turn to be thrown out, as Petria Thomas is alleged to have re-entered the pool while the race was still being completed.

All that meant gold, and the first for 26 years in the World Championships for Britain.

Pickering couldn't believe it, Jackson was stunned, the British journalists whooped with delight.

At last we'd got one over on the Aussies, if only by default.

But as I was making my way back to the BBC Five Live commentary position, an Italian journalist pointed out that the computer screen on his desk was showing that the USA had taken gold and Britain were second.

A technical glitch we thought. After all the result had been confirmed on the big screen above the pool just moments before, and a "final" result surely means just that.

Not here it would seem - and while coaches, swimmers, chef de mission, journalists and cameramen buzzed around like demented flies trying to find out what was going on, the problem just snow-balled.

Heated exchange

And that's not easy in a part of Japan that is experiencing temperatures of 35 degrees centigrade and above!

Don Talbot, the head coach of Australia was busy having his say.

The not insubstantial frame of Britain's national performance director, Bill Sweetenham, strode into view, and delegates from the American team were having a heated exchange of views with the Fina judges and anyone that would listen.

The upshot was that there was a meeting of the Fina jury at 0130 BST on Thursday to decide how to resolve this situation.

The basis of the American claim is that the touch pad on lane six is faulty and that the offending takeover of 0.06 seconds, should really read 0.01.

British team boss Craig Hunter makes an official complaint
British team boss Craig Hunter makes an official complaint

There is no data to back that up, and no film evidence that will be supported - despite the fact that there are cameras positioned just about everywhere.

America's case is flimsy, but the "offending" touch pad was replaced after the session.

The feeling in the British camp was that they will have to settle for silver.

But the feeling was wrong - the Americans were thrown out.

That was a good thing. Otherwise, what Don Talbot called a "kangaroo court" would have left its tainted mark on a Championships that had been thoroughly enjoyable up to this point.

It was right that Britain won its first World Championships gold since David Wilkie won the 100m and 200m breaststroke in Columbia.

And the "men in suits", usually perceived as not wanting to upset a swimming super power, did not, to their credit, fudge the issue.

That has ensured that the sport retains a lot of its magic, and the bully boy tactics failed where often they succeed.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Bob Ballard
"The medal ceremony has been postponed until tomorrow"
Australian swimming coach Don Talbot
"There were protests flying everywhere"
British performance director Bill Sweetenham
"It's a storm in a tea cup"

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