The heavily favored U.S. men's swimming team could do nothing but stare in shocked silence as they watched the judges take away their 4x100 medley relay victory at the world championships on Sunday in Barcelona, Spain.
The team was disqualified after U.S. swimmer Kevin Cordes dove into the pool 0.04 seconds -- 0.01 seconds too soon -- before teammate Matt Grevers tapped the wall, according to the Associated Press.
"That's like a punch in the gut right there," U.S. men's team head coach Bob Bowman said, according to AP.
If not for the early exchange, the American men, with a time of 3:30.06, would have won the race handily, according to Yahoo! Sports. As it stands, however, the victory was given to the second-place team from France.
France's time was 3:31.51, reported France 24. Australia won silver with a time of 3:31.64, and Japan took the bronze in 3:32.26.
The U.S. relay team said the loss would make them work harder next time.
"It's probably my fault, actually," Grevers, who swam the first backstroke leg, told reporters following the race, according to Yahoo! "It's usually the guy coming in. It happens. It happens all the time. It's unfortunate that it happened on the world's second-biggest stage."
An apparently crestfallen Cordes, who swam the breaststroke, also addressed the disappointment on Twitter:
Really tough night to swallow. Thanks for all the support it was an absolute honor to represent my country!— Kevin Cordes (@KwCordes) August 4, 2013
Rounding out the relay team were Ryan Lochte, who swam the butterfly, and Nathan Adrian, who swam the final freestyle leg.
Since the first 4x100 medley relay at the Montreal Olympics in 1976, the U.S. men's squad had won almost every single gold medal at worlds or the Olympics, the only exception being a disqualification at the 2007 world championships in Australia (and games in which the U.S. has not competed), according to AP. And now the 2013 world championship.