(CNN)Two British triathletes were disqualified from an Olympics qualification race in Tokyo for crossing the finish line hand-in-hand.
Jess Learmonth and Georgia Taylor-Brown passed over the line in a photo finish, holding each other’s hands and celebrating as they completed the World Triathlon Olympic Qualification Event in the host city of next year’s Olympic Games. Learmonth was then declared the winner.
But despite being comfortably clear of their nearest competitors, the pair were disqualified for their show of solidarity.
The International Triathlon Union’s competition rules state that “athletes who finish in a contrived tie situation, where no effort to separate their finish times has been made will be DSQ (disqualified).”
Learmonth and Taylor-Brown nonetheless received support from a number of fellow athletes following the ruling.
“I am genuinely upset for these champions. A telling off , a fine perhaps but dq ??? Olympic places lost and lives potentially changed?!” former British Olympian and Ironman champion Jodie Swallow wrote on Twitter.
Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, who finished after the pair, was elevated to the winner’s position, while Italian Alice Betto claimed second place.
Fortunately for the pair, however, the disqualification did not ultimately result in them missing out on places in next year’s Olympics.
The running section of the race was cut from the Olympic distance of 10km to 5km due to poor weather, meaning Britain’s Olympic competitors will be decided later in the year rather than on the results of the contest.
British athlete Vicky Holland finished third as a result of the disqualification. She told the British Triathlon governing body: “It’s wasn’t the set of circumstances that you want when you win a medal but you have to play to what’s given to you and I’ve come out with a third place finish.”
“I really feel for Jess and Georgia because they raced exceptionally well today and I feel like they absolutely smashed it and deserved the first and second finish,” she added.
Mike Cavendish, British Triathlon National Performance Director, added: “It’s obviously disappointing to have Jess and Georgia disqualified but it’s a testament to the depth of our female squad that we still have another athlete on the podium.”