British triathletes Jess Learmonth and Georgia Taylor-Brown took the top two spots of the podium at a heat-shortened triathlon in Tokyo on Thursday, raising their hands together as they snapped the finishing tape. Their shared victory did not last long, however, as the haters over at the International Triathlon Union voided their results and gave the gold medal to a woman who finished 11 seconds behind the duo.
The ITU cited a rule that penalizes athletes who cook up a “contrived tie situation,” which would maybe hold more water as violation if this event were an Olympic final, not a test event. Bermudian world champion Flora Duffy was awarded the win, and because the true first- and second-place finishers were disqualified, Italy’s Alice Betto and the USA’s Summer Rappaport qualified for next summer’s Olympics.
British triathlon authorities can nominate three women for participation in the 2020 Tokyo Games; a quick scan over the selection procedures makes it seem unlikely that Learmonth and Taylor-Brown’s stunt finish will keep them from the Olympics. No British triathlete met the criteria for automatic nomination, so the British Triathlon Federation will simply choose their three best athletes.
Had the race taken place over an official Olympic distance, upgraded third-place finisher Vicky Holland would’ve earned an automatic spot. However, the course was shortened because of the extreme heat in Japan that has killed at least 57 people since July.