The powerfully built 21-year old from Roehampton was adjudged to have pushed the Canadian Derrick Campbell with two and a half of the nine scheduled laps around the tight 111m circuit remaining.
Campbell slid out, and Gooch carried on to cross the line behind the Korean Kim Ki-hoon, the reigning Olympic champion. But when he saw that the referee had gone over to speak to his coach, Alan Luke, he feared the worst.
'It's unbelievable to think you have won an Olympic medal and then to have it taken away from you,' Gooch said. 'I thought it was a harsh decision, but in this game you have to go with the referee's judgement.' For all those sentiments, Britain did lodge a protest, but it was swiftly turned down.
Gooch, who had reached the final by skating conservatively and efficiently, might have lost his chance by trying to do too well. 'The pace was heating up and I wanted to go for the gold,' he said. 'I went into a 50-50 challenge and I've come out the worse. These things happen. Competition is tough out there.
'I came through on the inside. Campbell sensed it and sprinted. He didn't want me to come past, and he leant on me. It was 50-50, but the referees saw it his way. In this sport, the onus is on the overtaking skater.' And as overtaking has to be done without physical contact, Gooch was deemed to be the guilty party.
Campbell, who carried on after picking himself back up, but he was adjudged not to have finished because he miscalculated the laps by one. Thus the bronze medal, behind the other Korean, Chae Ji- hoon, went to Campbell's colleague, the world champion Marc Gagnon, who won the B final.
Oddly enough, it was Gagnon's slip and fall while leading his semi- final which allowed Gooch through to qualify for the final.
Gooch displayed enormous sang froid in his moment of torment. 'You have to stay cool,' he said. 'The people who do that come through in the end. I was out there with a great champion and I was trying to beat him. But it's not going the British way.'
The reference presumably covered the accidental clash of skate blades in the opening heats, which did for the chances of Gooch's team-mate, Wilf O'Reilly.
Had things turned out a little differently, Britain would have been in possession of two medals at the same Winter Games for the first time since 1948.
It would have been wonderful for Gooch to have taken a silver medal to next month's World Championships, which are being held at the Guildford rink - where Gooch, the 1991 European 1,000m champion, works as a part-time assistant.
He has enormous stamina, and ambitions of representing Britain in cycling at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. But he suffered disappointment at the last Olympics, where he fell, and last October his world 1500m record at Nottingham was invalid because it was hand-timed.
O'Reilly, whose last Olympics were ruined by falls in this and the 5,000m relay, discovered that the Games held yet more bad luck in store. Barely one step into his qualifying heat, the 27-year-old from Sutton Coldfield sustained damage to one of his skates after crossing blades with Campbell.
The collision roughened up the last two inches of the back of his right skate blade. Suddenly the double Olympic winner of 1988, when speed skating first appeared as a demonstration sport, had nothing to bite into the ice with on that foot. 'The first time I went into a glide I almost fell over,' he said.
Both Britons have a second chance in the 500m, which starts tomorrow, having been brought into the Games for the first time as a full event.
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