Schooling loses first SEA Games gold over swim controversy

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 29, 2021, Singapore’s Joseph Schooling competes in a heat for the men’s 100m butterfly swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo. – The Southeast Asian Games officially open in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on May 12, 2022 after a six-month Covid delay with regional pride up for grabs in everything from football to bodybuilding and dancesport. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP)

HANOI, Vietnam (AFP) — Olympic swimming hero Joseph Schooling had a first gold of this year’s Southeast Asian Games dramatically snatched away when Singapore’s sprint relay team were disqualified.

Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen, Jonathan Tan and Mikkel Lee came home well clear of their regional rivals in the 4x100m freestyle relay at the SEA Games in Hanoi on Saturday night and celebrated winning gold.

But while conducting a post-race interview the quartet’s elation turned to agony when were informed they had been disqualified — because one of their swimmers had left his blocks early at a changeover — before being ushered away.

Schooling, 26, stunned Michael Phelps to win the 2016 Olympic 100m butterfly title and has won 27 SEA Games golds, along with three Asian Games golds.

The disqualification ends Singapore’s winning streak in SEA Games 4x100m freestyle relays dating back to 2001.

Malaysia finished second but were also disqualified for the same offence which left hosts Vietnam to take the gold with silver for Indonesia and bronze going to Thailand.

Malaysian swimming coach Chris Martin said official timing showed one of their swimmers had left the blocks at a chageover 0.12 seconds before the incoming swimmer had touched the wall, in comments reported by state news agency Bernama.

Vietnamese swim coach Phan Quang Minh Quan told state outlet VnExpress: “This is something very difficult and sensitive in sport, but the digital machine detected the violations, not human, so it’s fair.”

© Agence France-Presse