Park Tae-Hwan's hopes of defending his Olympic men's 400m freestyle title were resurrected Saturday as he was reinstated in the wake of his sensational false start disqualification in the heats.
Gold medal favourite Park, who holds the Olympic and world crowns in the event, touched first in his heat but was stunned to look up and see the scoreboard showing he was disqualified.
An appeal by the South Korean delegation was rejected by the competition referee, but world governing body FINA's jury of appeal overturned the disqualification on the advice of the FINA technical commission.
"The FINA Jury of Appeal met today in the Aquatics Centre and examined the protest lodged by the Korean Swimming Federation regarding the disqualification of swimmer Park Tae-Hwan in the heats of the men's 400m freestyle, and based on the recommendation of the FINA Technical Swimming Commission decided to reinstate the above mentioned swimmer in the final of the men's 400m freestyle," a ruling said.
Pedro Adrega, head of communications for FINA, declined to elaborate on the exact reasons for the reversal.
Park's time of 3:46.68 makes him the fourth-fastest of the morning. His appearance in Saturday night's final will leave Canadian Ryan Cochrane, who thought he had locked the eighth and final spot, out in the cold.
That raised the prospect of a Canadian protest.
For Park, the events of this morning recalled the nightmare of his Olympic debut in 2004, when he was disqualified in the 400m free for the same reason.
Four years later, a then-18-year-old Park rebounded to win South Korea's first Olympic swimming gold at Beijing's Water Cube.
"I don't know what happened," a bewildered Park told reporters shortly after leaving the pool. "I need to speak to my coach to find out."
China's Sun Yang topped the qualifiers with a time of 3min 45.07sec.
Park, a two-time 400m world champion, who spent time training in Australia as preparation for the London Olympics, has never been beaten by Sun in international competition.
But Sun, the 1500m freestyle world record-holder, owns the fastest time in the world this year and his personal best makes him the third-fastest performer in history behind Paul Biedermann -- who failed to make the final -- and Ian Thorpe.
"It wasn't so good," world record-holder Biedermann said of his 3:48.50. "I wanted to lead from the front, but I couldn't hold it.
"I have the 200m freestyle tomorrow and I am hoping for a better outcome."
Before the drama of the appeal ended with Park's reinstatement, Cochrane was philosophical about the surprises of the day.
"That's the Olympics," he said.