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Tokyo Olympic swimming timing system under fire with four dead heats

The Olympic timing system for the swimming has been thrown into question again after four dead heats were recorded despite one of Australia's biggest stars clearly touching the wall first.

The latest was on Tuesday night with Aussie swimmer Zac Stubblety-Cook and the Netherland's Arno Kamminga both being declared winners in their 200m breaststroke heat.

Both swimmers did appear to touch the wall at the same time with the pool's sensors clocking them in at two minutes and 7.37 seconds. 

After Tuesday night's breaststroke event, Olympic swimming legend and co-commentator Leisel Jones said the chances of so many athletes docking the same times was extremely rare. 

'I've never seen so many dead heats in an Olympic Games,' she said on Seven. 

Zac Stubblety-Cook (pictured) and the Netherlands' Arno Kamminga both being declared winners in the 200m breaststroke heats on Tuesday night

The pair did both appear to touch the wall at the same time with both swimmers clocking in at two minutes and 7.37 seconds

The biggest shock was when Australian swimmer Emma McKeon was given the same time as China's Yufei Zhang during the 100m butterfly heat on Saturday night - despite footage clearly showing McKeon touch the wall first. 

The pair were declared tied first and swam the distance in just 55.82 seconds - a new Commonwealth record - with the race being labelled a dead-heat. 

Replay footage of the final leg of the race appeared to show McKeon touch the wall a fraction of a second before her opponent.

Commonwealth Games gold medallist Meagen Nay weighed in and said the footage showed one clear winner.

'Emma was clearly on wall first,' she wrote. 

A dead-heat between Emma McKeon (right) and a Chinese swimmer (left, Yufei Zhang) has been put under the spotlight after replay footage appeared to show the Australian competitor touch the wall first and finish the race before her rival

But there is a simple explanation for why McKeon and Zhang recorded the same time during the race - she didn't touch the wall hard enough.

The walls at the end of the swimming pool are fitted out with touch sensitive technology.

Swimmers must put enough pressure on the wall for their time to be recorded.

An official explained that McKeon touched the wall softly before applying more pressure a fraction of a second later, while Zhang hit hard immediately.

International federation FINA - which is responsible for administering international competitions in water sports - stood by the timing system insisting there was 'nothing wrong' with it.

An official explained that McKeon must have touched the wall softly while her opponent Zhang applied more pressure

Fortunately for competitors none of the dead heats have been recorded in finals.

Australians swimming icon Ian Thorpe said McKeon's race would have been disputed had it been a final.

'I don't think the equipment is messed up. There may have been a fault, but they're saying there is no fault in the equipment, they've tested them. They test those things every session,' Thorpe said.

'So there's someone that's actually measuring the lanes making sure they're working effectively and as they should be.' 

He said for a time to be recorded swimmers had to 'touch the touchpad in to actually touch the wall'.

'So that's where the finish is. There's a photo of Michael Phelps where he's at the Olympics and it looks like he's behind, and we've seen what happened with Emma McKeon, when it looked like she was home,' Thorpe said.

Other dead heats were seen between a pair of Aussies Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin in the 400m freestyle heats along with in the 100m backstroke heats between Evgeny Rylov and Ryan Murphy. 

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