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Olympics 2012: Phelps barely makes it; S. Korea fights Park’s disqualification
LONDON (AP) — Michael Phelps almost failed to qualify Saturday for the final in the first of his seven events and Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan was disqualified in a stunning opening session of the London Olympics swimming program.
“That one didn’t feel too good,” Phelps said, after squeaking into the final in the 400-meter individual medley by a seven-hundredths of a second.
Park touched the wall first in his 400 freestyle heat and was surprised by his DQ, saying, “I don’t know why” after he walked off the deck.
South Korea appealed to the swimming governing body FINA, which was expected to rule later Saturday.
Park and Phelps were not the only surprise of the morning at the Aquatics Centre, where Queen Elizabeth appeared briefly.
Paul Biedermann of Germany, the world record holder for the 200-meter freestyle, failed to make the final.
“That’s the Olympics,” said Canadian Ryan Cochrane, who barely made the 400 free final. “It’s always a surprise, every single heat. You just have to focus on your own race.”
Cochrane could miss out on the final later Saturday if Parks is reinstated.
In Beijing, Park became South Korea’s first swimming gold medalist and then won the world title in Shanghai last year.
Phelps, the two-time defending Olympic champion, won his 400 IM preliminary heat in 4 minutes, 13.33 seconds with a time that was well off his world record of 4:03.84 set four years ago in Beijing, when Phelps won a record eight gold medals.
But it was only good enough to secure the last spot in the evening final, when Phelps will swim in Lane 1 instead of the middle of the pool.
“The only thing that matters is just getting a spot in,” he said. “You can’t win the gold medal from the morning.”
In the 400 IM, Kosuke Hagino of Japan led the way in 4:10.01, a national record. Chad le Clos of South Africa was second at 4:12.24, and Ryan Lochte of the United States advanced in third at 4:12.35.
Phelps‘ time was just fast enough to keep Laszlo Cseh of Hungary, the silver medalist in Beijing, out of the final. Cseh was ninth overall after leading Phelps during their heat before the American closed on the last lap of freestyle to beat him to the wall.
“I didn’t expect those guys to go that fast in their heat,” Phelps said. “I was slower this morning than I was four years ago.”
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