An Olympian was left in tears after being shown a red card right before jumping in the pool because of what she thought was a harmless act.
A star triathlete was left devastated when she was disqualified before the swim leg of her event.
Competing at the Arena Games Triathlon in Munich this week, Czech athlete Petra Kurikova was leading after stage one with a six-second advantage but was cruelly dismissed while she was waiting on the blocks ready to dive into the pool for the second heat of stage two.
Stream Over 50 Sports Live & On-Demand with Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
Kurikova was just moments away from starting the next stage when, standing behind her lane, she turned away from the pool and spat on the floor. A World Triathlon official saw this, approached her and produced a red card.
Kurikova was in disbelief, questioning why the decision needed to be made.
A commentator for the event, which was shown on Kayo, said: “Of course that is against the rules and she was extremely upset.
“And why not. She was six seconds to the good at that point and then she was gone and that left just the five athletes battling it out for three qualification spots.”
Kurikova was later seen sitting down with the head referee, who was explaining something to her and pointing to his phone.
“It wouldn’t be a Super League event without just a little bit of controversy,” the commentator added.
The disqualification allowed Spaniard Anna Godoy to sneak into third spot and keep her competition alive.
Kurikova took to social media after the catastrophe to say she was disqualified because of “one spit on the floor before the start”.
“At first thank you for all nice words from you athletes and people around for whom spit is a natural reaction in sport,” she wrote on Instagram.
“I am sorry for that I didn’t spit extra to someone. I did it nearby and not during the race. What do you think about the theme spitting during the sports?
“I still can take something very positive. The race shows me I am on the good way. Some days the hard work will pay off.”
Kurikova is a former swimmer turned triathlete, who competed at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She has stood on the podium nine times across 107 starts, and has a world ranking of 107.
The Arena Games series is the result of as partnership between Super League Triathlon and World Triathlon and has brought the world’s best triathletes to Germany to compete.