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Schooling loses first SEA Games gold over swim controversy

HANOI (AFP) – Olympic swimming hero Joseph Schooling had a first gold of this year’s Southeast Asian (SEA) 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 4×100 metres (m) 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.

Malaysian swimming coach Chris Martin said official timing showed one of their swimmers had left the blocks at a changeover 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.”