MELBOURNE -- Ian Crocker's eagerness to get back in the pool after losing to Michael Phelps ended up costing his teammate a shot at history -- and more gold.
The US team was shockingly disqualified in the 400-meter medley relay preliminaries today, spoiling Phelps's bid for a record eight gold medals.
Crocker dived in for the butterfly leg before Scott Usher completed his breaststroke, resulting in the DQ. "Just an unlucky exchange," anchor Neil Walker said.
Phelps was counting on the morning crew earning a spot in the evening final, which he, breaststroker Brendan Hansen, backstroker Aaron Peirsol, and freestyler Jason Lezak would have swum. They would have been favored to break the world record, which Phelps helped set at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Crocker, of Portland, Maine, was back in the water for the first time since losing the 100 butterfly to Phelps the night before. Phelps's victory was his sixth gold medal of the meet, tying Ian Thorpe's record from 2001.
Phelps could still become the most successful swimmer at a worlds if he wins the 400 individual medley tonight. Earlier, he qualified fastest for the final, in which he'll be going for his fifth world record of the meet.
"Michael was doing something that nobody has ever done before," Walker said. "I think everybody is going to be disappointed, Michael included. But he's going to see that this is the way it happens sometimes."
Walker attributed Crocker's mistake to "a little bit of overexcitement."
"Ian had such an awesome race last night with Michael Phelps. To get back up the next morning is tough to do in the morning relay," he said.
But Crocker completed his exchange in .04 seconds -- .01 seconds outside the allowable time, so no protest could be lodged.
The Americans easily won their heat, then stood behind the starting blocks at the end of the race, waiting for judges to check Crocker's exchange. When they ruled against him, Crocker slapped his hands to his face in disbelief.
"I trust the machine," US men's assistant coach Eddie Reese said. "Since '88 in Korea . . . I have not seen the machine make a mistake."
In the penultimate night of the competition yesterday, the Americans won 4 of 6 finals, with Phelps beating Crocker with a lunge at the wall, and Ben Wildman-Tobriner nipping teammate Cullen Jones in the 50 free.
Thorpe, whose last major international meet was the 2004 Olympics, was back on Australia's front pages after the French sports daily L'Equipe reported he showed "abnormal levels" of two banned substances in a test six months before he officially retired in November.
Thorpe was at the worlds last night, sitting among the Australian team. He planned a news conference for today.