US Swim Team Disqualified: Changeover Was 0.01 Seconds Too Soon

The US swim team was disqualified on Sunday in a competition in the Palau Sant Jordi pool in Barcelona, Spain.

The four swimmers, Matt Grevers, Nathan Adrian, Ryan Lochte, and Kevin Cordes looked at the scoreboard in utter disbelief as the disqualification was announced. US men’s head coach Bob Bowman said, “That’s like a punch in the gut right there.”

Only moments before, the swimmers were embracing each other, celebrating that surest of gold medals in the pool — the men’s 4×100 medley relay. The US has never lost this race, except by disqualification.

Since the Olympic games in Montreal in 1976, the American team has only suffered one defeat in this event; that happened at the Olympic games in Melbourne in 2007 when Ian Crocker dove too soon for the butterfly leg.

This time, the disqualification was witnessed by a crowd of 10,000 screaming fans. Adrian touched the wall first in the anchor leg by nearly 1.5 seconds — a long lead in swimming terms. Cordes, 19, competing at his first worlds event, dove for his breaststroke leg 0.04 seconds before Grevers touched the wall to complete his backstroke leg.

The rules allow a leeway of 0.03 seconds, so it was 0.01 over the limit; this is the smallest margin allowed. Afterwards, Grevers said, “It’s as much my fault or more than Kevin’s… the guy coming in is usually the one responsible. I kind of slipped off my start and got a little more tired than I wanted to at the end.

When the dreaded letters DQ were placed next to United States on the scoreboard, it meant US swim team disqualified, a bitter blow for the four team members.