British fury as relay descends into chaos

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The Independent Online

A night of disqualifications and arguments that ended in uproar marred the gold medal the women's 4x200m freestyle team briefly thought they had won in Fukuoka yesterday.

Ian Thorpe's third world record and fourth gold of the week was overshadowed as chaos prevailed at the Marine Messe after the final event of the night ended in controversy. The Australian team touched first, the United States second but Britain's bronze became gold after disqualifications for the top two teams. In the appeals that followed, the medal ceremony was suspended until officials from the world governing body, Fina, have a chance to meet in the early hours of this morning to resolve the mess.

What is certain is that the British quartet of Nicola Jackson, Janine Belton, Karen Legg and Karen Pickering set a British record 7min 58.69sec and have won Britain's third medal of the week. However, the question is whether it will be gold or silver.

The United States were first disqualified for an illegal takeover, before Britain's silver became gold when the victorious Australian team were disqualified for celebrating their victory prematurely. Petria Thomas, the gold medallist in the 200m butterfly, and then her jubilant team-mates, leapt into the pool before the last placed Italian team had finished. As the British team began celebrating their first world gold medal for 26 years, the United States were reinstated after their takeover time was revised to a legal margin of error; the Americans blaming a faulty touchpad.

Bill Sweetenham, the British performance director, was at the centre of the rows that followed. "I think we've won the gold medal," he said. "The results were confirmed on the scoreboard for everyone to see and then they were changed and you can't do that. The Australians clearly jumped into the water before the event had finished and that's against the rules.

"If the touchpad is faulty, you have to question every result from that lane. I've looked at the video back-up and it's totally inconclusive, so the result should stand and we're in first place. Are there rules or not?"

After swimming a lifetime best, the Scotsman Ian Edmond was disqualified in the semi-final of the 200m breaststroke. He was judged to have made an illegal dolphin kick out of the third turn.

Bath's Jo Fargus is ranked second into today's final of the 200m backstroke behind Romania's Olympic champion Diana Mocanu.

With his third world record of the week, Thorpe took revenge on the Dutchman Pieter Van den Hoogenband in the 200m freestyle for his defeat in Sydney last year. The 'Thorpedo' stormed to a time of 1:44.06, 0.63sec below his old record.

Thorpe is set to surpass the record five gold medals won at a single world championships, jointly held by the Americans Jim Montgomery (1973) and Tracey Caulkins (1978), and is still on course for an unprecedented seven golds.

Inde de Bruijn, of the Netherlands, took the first of four possible golds with victory in the 100m freestyle.