Ohio State's Hunter Armstrong, first awarded gold, gets silver in 50m backstroke at worlds
BUDAPEST, Hungary — After some confusion, the United States’ Justin Ress was confirmed as the men’s 50 backstroke champion and the medal was handed over by Ohio State's Hunter Armstrong at the world swimming championships.
Ress’ elation at winning the race in 24.12 ended promptly when he was disqualified for being submerged at the finish. Teammate Armstrong, who finished two-hundredths of a second behind, was awarded the win, while the 17-year-old Ksawery Masiuk of Poland was bumped up to silver and Italy star Thomas Ceccon grabbed the bronze.
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But after the award ceremony officials overturned the disqualification, meaning Ress was awarded gold, Armstrong silver and Masiuk bronze.
When he was the presumed winner, Armstrong was visibly upset about the way his teammate was robbed, according to swimswam.com.
“I was really proud of Justin,” Armstrong told the website. “That was a great race. We only had .02 seconds separating us.
“I would have rather taken second and had him with me than having me get the title with the DQ. That’s not how I wanted it. I was just incredibly proud of him. He’s just an amazing athlete, a great talent, and completely raw. He’s capable of so much. To have that taken away from him, it sucks.”
Armstrong finished .02 behind Ress on the semifinals and finals. It’s the second gold medal of the week for Ress, who helped the Americans win the 4×100 free.
Coming through a lonely mixed zone with his gold medal hanging over his chest afterward, Ress still seemed to be overwhelmed by the drama of his last day at the worlds.
“It was shock the whole time,” Ress said of his initial reaction to being disqualified. “Twenty minutes I was just in the chair in the team room, just paralyzed, shocked I got DQ’ed. And then, obviously the overturns rarely happen, so I pretty much lost all hope.”
U.S. team manager Lindsay Mintenko hadn’t lost hope, however, and she pushed officials to review their decision. The officials showed her frame-by-frame footage of Ress’ finish to back up their case.
“There’s no reason for officials if you’re going to look at a frame-by-frame review of the DQ. That finish was definitely my best finish of the meet,” Ress said.
Eventually, it seems, the officials agreed.
“When they told me it got overturned, it was 20 more minutes of shock that it had been overturned,” Ress said. “But then, you know, on top of that, there’s just all this sadness, anger and, I think that’s probably the worst possible way a race could go.”
Ress said if he had finished eighth he would have been “bummed” that he didn’t get a medal or perform as well as he could have.
“But I’ve learned that it’s not about the results, it’s about the journey. But when it goes down like that, you know, winning, you think you’ve won for a couple of minutes, and then see the DQ, it’s just devastating,” Ress said.
The confusion put his whole offseason “into a nice little bow tie.” Last December, Ress mulled retiring from swimming before he moved from North Carolina to California.
“I knew if I wanted to keep swimming, I had to make a move,” he said.
That move evidently paid off with his first individual world title, eventually.
“I think a FINA official told me this is the first time it ever happened,” Ress said, referring to the event’s slogan. “They have the words ‘make history’ everywhere. So I guess I made history.”