After much ado, Peirsol awarded gold medal in 200 backstroke

Disqualification is reversed

`it came out all right,' he says

Men's Swimming

Athens Olympics 2004

August 20, 2004|By Randy Harvey | Randy Harvey,SUN STAFF

ATHENS -- The United States' Aaron Peirsol was the Olympic champion in the 200-meter backstroke. Then he wasn't. After a confusing 20 minutes, he was again.

Afterward, once he had the gold medal around his neck, Peirsol, 21, of Irvine, Calif., adopted the attitude that all's well that ends well.

"Nothing happened," he said. "It was a little weird, but it's OK. It came out all right."

Indeed it did for Peirsol. He finished first in the race in an Olympic record of 1 minute, 54.95 seconds, more than two seconds ahead of runner-up Markus Rogan of Austria and third-place Razvan Florea of Romania.

But moments after Peirsol left the pool, the scoreboard flashed the news that he had been disqualified. Official results showed Rogan first, Florea second and Great Britain's James Goddard third.

Peirsol was stunned. As he walked past the media, he called the decision "bogus," even though he conceded he hadn't been informed of the reason for it.

"We kept waiting for `Just kidding' to show up on the scoreboard," U.S. coach Eddie Reese said.

U.S. swimming officials later said the lane judge had disqualified Peirsol for an illegal turn at the 150-meter mark. But before they could protest, the referee and the technical commission had overturned the judge's ruling.

FINA, the world governing body for swimming, released a statement initially saying the judge had been overruled because his reason for the disqualification was "inadequate and not in the working language [English and French] of FINA."

Later, on its Web site, FINA clarified its decision by saying Peirsol had not violated any rules.

Then it was time for the Austrian and the British delegations to file protests, which the jury of appeals rejected in time for Peirsol to receive his gold medal.

British officials said late last night they will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has set up an office in Athens during the Games.

In another race, Amanda Beard, 22, of Irvine, Calif., won the women's 200 breaststroke in an Olympic-record 2:23.37. Australia's Leisel Jones was second in 2:23.60.

Peirsol said he felt badly for Rogan, Florea and Goddard, who all stood to benefit from his misfortune.

"The others guys in the field had their emotions played with a little more than mine," Peirsol said. "I knew I didn't do anything wrong. I was pretty confident it would get overturned."

Rogan, who would have been Austria's first gold medalist in swimming since 1896, said: "For a moment, I thought about the gold medal, and the idea was just beautiful. But, after all, it's fair like this. Aaron is a very honest person. I am sure he swam fairly, and it is just the way it should be."

Peirsol dismissed the idea that the judge's original decision might have been retribution because Peirsol complained Sunday that a Japanese swimmer committed an illegal dolphin kick in winning the 100 breaststroke. Peirsol wasn't in the race, but he said teammate Brendan Hansen, who finished second, should have been declared the winner.

"There was no payback," Peirsol said. "I got my medal."

Even if he hadn't, Peirsol, who won the 100 backstroke earlier in the meet, said he would have considered himself the winner.

"I proved myself, whether I got up on that podium or not," he said. "That was just icing on the cake."

4 gold, 2 bronze, 2 events to go for Phelps

How Michael Phelps has performed in Athens and whatM-Fs ahead:

SATURDAY, AUG. 14 - GOLD MEDAL

400 IM

Won gold medal with world-record time.

Prelim: 4:13.29

Final: 4:08.26

SUNDAY, AUG. 15 - BRONZE MEDAL

400 free relay

U.S. team finished 3rd.

200 freestyle

Prelim: 1:48.43

Semifinal: 1:47.08

MONDAY, AUG. 16 - BRONZE MEDAL

200 freestyle

Finished 3rd.

Final: 1:45.32

200 butterfly

Prelim 1:57.36

Semifinal: 1:55.65

TUESDAY, AUG. 17 - GOLD MEDAL, GOLD MEDAL

200 butterfly

Won gold in 1:54

800 freestyle relay

U.S. team finished 1st.

WEDNESDAY, AUG. 18

200 IM

Prelim 2:00.01

Semifinal 1:58.52

YESTERDAY, Aug. 19 - GOLD MEDAL

200 IM

Won gold in 1:57.14

100 butterfly

Prelim: 0:52.35

Semifinal: 0:51.61

TODAY, AUG. 20

400 medley relay

5:15 a.m.: Prelim

100 butterfly

12:40 p.m.: Final

TOMORROW, AUG. 21

400 medley relay

1:25 p.m.: Final

All times Eastern. NBC will televise swimming by tape delay each night from 8 p.m. to midnight.

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