Tokyo Olympic swim time system under attack with four dead heats

Olympic swim timing system under fire with YET controversial dead-heat after Australian Emma McKeon tied with Chinese rival despite clearly hitting the wall first

  • Four dead heats recorded between swimmers at the Tokyo Olympics
  • Australian swimmer Zac Stubblety-Cook shared his 200m breaststroke victory
  • Emma McKeon also finished first on Saturday with Chinese swimmer Yufei Zhang
  • System was questioned after images first showed McKeon touch wall

The Olympic swimming timing system has been called into question again after four dead heats were recorded, despite one of Australia’s biggest stars clearly touching the wall first.

The latest was on Tuesday night when Australian swimmer Zac Stubblety-Cook and Dutchman Arno Kamminga were both declared winners in their 200m breaststroke heat.

Both swimmers appeared to be touching the wall at the same time with the pool’s sensors clocking them in at two minutes and 7.37 seconds.

After Tuesday night’s breaststroke event, Olympic swimming legend and fellow commentator Leisel Jones said the chance of so many athletes mooring the same times was extremely rare.

“I’ve never seen so many dead heats at an Olympics,” she said on Seven.

Zac Stubblety-Cook (photo) and the Dutchman Arno Kamminga are both declared winners in the 200-meter breaststroke on Tuesday evening.

The pair appeared to both touch the wall at the same time, with both swimmers clocking in at two minutes and 7.37 seconds

The pair appeared to both touch the wall at the same time, with both swimmers clocking in at two minutes and 7.37 seconds

The biggest shock came when Australian swimmer Emma McKeon got the same time as China’s Yufei Zhang in Saturday night’s 100m butterfly – despite footage clearly showing McKeon hitting the wall first.

The pair were declared equal first and swam the distance in just 55.82 seconds – a new Commonwealth record – with the race being labeled a dead-heat.

Replay footage of the final leg of the race appeared to show McKeon hitting the wall a split second in front of her opponent.

Commonwealth Games gold medalist Meagen Nay weighed in and said the images showed one clear winner.

“Emma was clearly on the wall first,” she wrote.

A dead-heat between Emma McKeon (right) and a Chinese swimmer (left, Yufei Zhang) has been spotlighted after replay footage emerged to show the Australian competitor to hit the wall first, finishing the race ahead of her rival

A dead-heat between Emma McKeon (right) and a Chinese swimmer (left, Yufei Zhang) has been spotlighted after replay footage emerged to show the Australian competitor to hit the wall first, finishing the race ahead of her rival

But there’s a simple explanation for why McKeon and Zhang were running the same time during the race – she didn’t touch the wall hard enough.

The walls at the end of the pool feature touch-sensitive technology.

Swimmers must exert enough pressure on the wall to be able to register their time.

An official explained that McKeon gently touched the wall before applying more pressure a split second later, as Zhang immediately struck hard.

International federation FINA – which is responsible for managing international competitions in water sports – backed the timing system and insisted there was ‘nothing wrong’ with it.

An official explained that McKeon must have touched the wall softly while her opponent Zhang applied more pressure

An official explained that McKeon must have touched the wall softly while her opponent Zhang applied more pressure

Fortunately for the contestants, none of the dead heats in the final was recorded.

Australian swimming icon Ian Thorpe said McKeon’s race would have been contested if it had been a final.

“I don’t think the equipment is messed up. There may have been a malfunction, but they say there is no malfunction in the equipment, they tested it. They test those things every session,” Thorpe said.

“So there is someone who measures the lanes to make sure they are working effectively and as they should be.”

He said swimmers had to “touch the touchpad to touch the wall” for a while.

“So there’s the finish line. There’s a picture of Michael Phelps where he’s at the Olympics and it looks like he’s behind it, and we saw what happened to Emma McKeon, when it seemed like she was home,” Thorpe said.

Other dead heats were seen between a pair of Aussies Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin in the 400m freestyle and in the 100m backstroke between Evgeny Rylov and Ryan Murphy.

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