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Two British triathletes were disqualified from a race for holding hands

Britain's Georgia Taylor-Brown, left, and Jessica Learmonth hold hands as they cross the finish line during a women's triathlon test event at Odaiba Marine Park, a venue for marathon swimming and triathlon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Tokyo.
Britain's Georgia Taylor-Brown, left, and Jessica Learmonth hold hands as they cross the finish line during a women's triathlon test event at Odaiba Marine Park, a venue for marathon swimming and triathlon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Two British triathletes were disqualified from a key race ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after they held hands while crossing the finish line.

Jessica Learmonth and Georgia Taylor Brown had a large lead in the heat-affected test event in Tokyo Thursday.

So, in celebration, the pair grabbed each other’s hands, and raised them above their heads.

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But International Triathlon Union (ITU) officials deemed they were in breach of rules that state athletes must not “finish in a contrived tie situation where no effort to separate the finish times has been made”.

Flora Duffy, of Bermuda, was officially awarded the win in a time of 1:40:19. Italy’s Alice Betto was second while Britain’s Vicky Holland was bumped up from fifth to complete the podium.

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Canada’s Joanna Brown came in 27th with a time of 1:43:56. Duffy’s winning time was 1:40:19.

An appeal of the ruling was rejected, and both women were too upset to comment on the matter, the Guardian reported.

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“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,” Mike Cavendish, British triathlon’s national performance director, said in a post on the British Triathlon Federation’s website.

Officials from the British Triathlon Federation told the Guardian the three contenders from Britain will need to wait until May before they find out whether or not they qualify for the Olympics — as the heat-affected test was also doubling as a qualifying event.

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Holland said she felt good about her race.

“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,” Holland said.

“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.”

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Race was reduced because of extreme heat

The ITU had decided to reduce the distance of the run section with concerns the weather conditions at the end of the race would have fallen within “extreme levels.”

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Local reports say the temperatures were over 30 C.

Instead of running 10 kilometres — after the 1.5-kilometre swim and 40-kilometre bike — the athletes only ran five kilometres.

“The whole point of coming here was to check out the venue, check out the course and see the conditions,” Duffy, who was awarded first place after the disqualifications, told reporters.

“I love racing in hot and humid weather and that felt pretty good today.”

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Soaring temperatures have killed at least 57 people across Japan since late July, highlighting the possible health threat to athletes and fans.

Kyodo News reported last weekend that several athletes were treated for heatstroke at the 2019 World Rowing Junior Championships in Tokyo, which was another test event for Olympic organizers.

— with files from Reuters