The men’s Olympic triathlon had a chaotic start when almost half of the athletes remained stranded at the starting line, while others dived in after a media crew boat blocked the swimmers’ path.
The 56-strong field of swimmers lined up for the 1,500 metre leg race in Tokyo Bay on Monday morning when a boat made a frantic turn to get out of the way of one-third of athletes soon after the starting buzzer went off.
The last-ditch effort by the boat, which tried to reverse its engine away from the swimmers, led to chaos, churning water around the athletes who dived in for the race, while others just stood around in confusion.
Just seconds after the start, two jet skis raced to stop the athletes who had to return to the starting line after more than 200 metres of vigorous swim.
“The boat’s in the way! Get out of the way! What is going on?” commentator Dave Culbert said. “Complete chaos. They’re going to have to call them back.”
“This is an absolute disaster. This is not what you want to happen, to waste a lot of your energy off that start and then to have to go back and do it all over again,” commentator Candice Warner added.
After a second buzzer was sounded, declaring it an “invalid start,” the race was underway safely around 10 minutes later.
Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt took the gold in the competition after finishing just 11 seconds ahead of Great Britain’s Alex Yee, while New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde won bronze.
The gold medalist in the race, Blummenfelt told Reuters: “I saw the boat and found it quite strange when I dived in I thought it would most likely be pulled back so I just kept to the left and went steady and tried to look at it as a positive, an extra warm up.”
But Australian Jake Birtwhistle suffered a broken nose after being kicked during the initial hiccup and ended up finishing on 16th spot, reported Reuters.
“It was one of the roughest swims I have been in,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It was a foot, it might even have been in the false start so it was all for nothing as well.”
Another competitor Aaron Royle said: “I just had to laugh to myself as I was swimming back to the pontoon to think of all the races for that to happen it had to be the Olympics.” He said initially he thought the race would not start “because the boat is literally there and next minute… I guess, there was no communication between the starter and whoever was on the pontoon.”
The world triathalon said in a statement that: “At the start some of the athletes were blocked by an OBS (Olympic Broadcast Services) boat and as a result we had to start again the race due to an invalid start.”