Two British triathletes have been disqualified for crossing the finish line of a race while holding hands together.

The bizarre incident unfolded in Tokyo, Japan, where the pair were leading the Tokyo 2020 Olympic test event.

As they approached the finishing line, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Jess Learmonth held hands and crossed the line together.

Hopes of a joint victory, however, were soon quashed as a photo finish initially suggested Learmonth had finished ahead of her compatriot. Shortly afterward, the pair were disqualified and the win was given to Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, a two-time world champion.

Under triathlon rules, contrived finishes are not permitted. Specifically, point 2.11.f of the International Triathlon Union’s Rule states that “athletes who finish in a contrived tie situation, where no effort to separate their finish times has been made, will be disqualified.”

An appeal was rejected and fellow Briton Vicky Holland, who won the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was upgraded to third after her teammates were disqualified.

“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,” she was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.

“I don’t know how British Triathlon will choose things now. I wouldn’t want to be a selector.”

Meanwhile, Italy’s Alice Betto and America’s Summer Rappaport were promoted to second and fifth, respectively, which was enough for them to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games.

“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,” Britain’s national performance director, Mike Cavendish, told British Triathlon’s official website.

“What the athletes delivered today has told us a lot ahead of next year, and to have five athletes in the top 11 is great.”

In scorching hot temperatures, Learmonth took the lead after the swimming leg, before a group containing 13 athletes reeled her in during the cycling section. Eventually, Learmonth and Taylor-Brown opened up a gap in the running leg as they pulled away from the chasing pack.Loading…

Due to the extreme weather, organizers opted to cut the running section of the circuit from 10km (6.2 miles) to 5km. Speaking to Reuters, Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya said the organizers thought a “comprehensive review is necessary” following the test event.

Tokyo was hit by a major heatwave last year and Games organizers have been testing misting sprays and air-conditioned tents to make conditions more bearable for athletes.