UPDATE: Disqualification lifted for Chattanooga's Sean Ryan in Olympic 10k open water swim
Word of a possible disqualification for Ryan was later lifted by race officials.
UPDATE: It was a dramatic finish for Chattanooga swimmer Sean Ryan, who made his Olympic debut Tuesday morning in Rio -- making him the 14th fastest swimmer in the 10k open water race.
A local watch party gathered to witness the big event.
Ryan finished just 13 seconds behind the top three finalists, but the real drama unfolded at the finish line.
The McCallie graduate was one of three swimmers disqualified, but that DQ was later lifted.
Ryan's former coach, Stan Corcoran, said the 24-year-old should be proud of his swim at the Olympics, and closed out his career on a memorable note.
As McCallie's first-ever U.S. Olympic swimmer, Ryan swam with the world's best in open water.
As expected, he was within striking distance the entire grueling 10k swim, until mass confusion at the end.
"I think that his disqualification, in the beginning, was for the finish," said Corcoran, who watched the entire two-hour race live from McCallie.
Ryan crossed the line, 13 seconds behind a medal, in 14th place. Immediately afterwards, officials disqualified him and two others for what's believed to be contact at the finish.
"It was something where they thought he swam over somebody. With all those people swimming into the gate, it's probably pretty hard to tell who's doing what. They ended up looking on a video replay, and cleared them," Corcoran explained.
Judges lifted Ryan's disqualification. He was able to reclaim his 14th place finish.
Corcoran previously told Channel 3 the swimmer's strategy was to swim in the middle of the pack, before breaking away later in the race.
That proved tough to do.
"Every time i saw him, he looked like he had gotten boxed in, and was really having a hard time making a move," said Corcoran.
But Coach said 14th in the world is something to be proud of.
He's overcome a lot in his swimming career. Missing the Olympic cut by seconds in 2012, only to achieve his dream 4 years later, in Rio.
"I'm sure he's pretty happy, and his family's pretty happy," Corcoran said.
Ryan said he's hanging up his suit after Rio. He lives in Detroit, but plans to return to Chattanooga after the Olympics to a Blue Tornado welcome.
PREVIOUS STORY: It was a dramatic finish for Chattanooga swimmer Sean Ryan, who made his Olympic debut this morning in Rio.
The McCallie graduate was one of three swimmers disqualified at the finish line, only for Ryan’s DQ to then be lifted, making him the 14th fastest swimmer in the 10k Open Water Race.
Olympian Sean Ryan swam neck-and-neck with some of the world’s greatest, but before he competed in Rio he swam at the McCallie School.
"He was a real leader for our team, he pushed everybody to work hard and just a really good guy to be around, said former teammate and friend David Clark.
Tuesday morning, Ryan made his Olympic debut representing Team USA in the 10k marathon in the open waters off Fort Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro.
Stan Corcoran, his former head swim coach at McCallie could barely take his eyes off the big screen as he watched from Chattanooga at a viewing party hosted by the alumni association.
"I thought it looked like he got caught in a pack and was getting bounced around a little bit. It looked like he had trouble getting through people to get up front,” Corcoran said.
Ryan finished in 14th place, just 13 seconds behind the top three finalists. But, the real drama of the race unfolded at the finish line. Just minutes after the race, Ryan was listed as one of three Olympians disqualified. Despite the disappointment, former teammates rallied behind their friend.
"I’m just gonna tell him I’m proud of him and way to go and I can’t wait to see him when he gets back,” Clark said.
Supporters stood in confusion, then Coach Corcoran received a message from USA swim representatives in Rio telling him the DQ had been lifted. A sigh of relief on Copacabana Beach and right here at home.
"His mom and I were texting back and forth during the race and I just told her there are 60 people here cheering when he finished and we're all proud of him and looking forward to seeing him in a couple weeks,” Corcoran said.
Ryan, who just turned 24, is expected to retire from the sport after Rio. He lives in Detroit, but plans to return to Chattanooga after the Olympics - no doubt to a Blue Tornado welcome.
PREVIOUS STORY: Chattanooga's Sean Ryan was originally thought to be one of three swimmers that were disqualified near the finish of Tuesday's Olympic 10k open water swim. The DQ has been lifted according to Olympic officials.
Ferry Weertman of the Netherlands beat Greece's Spiros Gianniotis in a photo finish Tuesday off one of the world's most iconic beaches, a frenetic finish to a 10-kilometer marathon.
We just talked to Michigan's Sean Ryan after 2-hr marathon swim. Thought he'd finished 14th. Now trying to figure out reason behind late DQ— John Niyo (@JohnNiyo) August 16, 2016
Chattanooga's Sean Ryan placed 14 in the early, unofficial results. Then came word of a possible disqualification, which was later lifted.
A pack of men's swimmers led by Gianniotis powered into the finish chute stroke for stroke, the medals in doubt until the very end — and even for a bit longer after that, as the officials tried to sort things out.
The bronze went to France's Marc-Antoine Olivier, who out-touched China's Lijun Zu in another result that required a photo to sort out. Britain's Jack Burnell appeared to touch third, but he was disqualified for a tussle with defending Olympic champion Ous Mellouli just a few meters from the line.
PREVIOUS STORY: It's a big morning for local McCallie graduate Sean Ryan.
He swims in the Olympics in Rio later this morning.
The 10k marathon in open water is a rough two-hour swim in the ocean.
READ MORE | McCallie grad to swim in Rio Olympics
But Ryan's high school coach tells Channel 3, the swimmer should "easily place in the top 10."
“I talked to him, and he is going to kind of be in the middle of the pack for the first half of the race, and he's going to try to make a move there,” says Stan Corcoran, Ryan’s swim coach at McCallie.
It's been six years since Sean Ryan swam at McCallie, but Coach Stan Corcoran still talks strategy with one of his most decorated swimmers.
This time, it's before the biggest race of the 24-year-old's life in the Olympic Games.
Ryan started swimming for Corcoran in middle school and still holds several school records.
“When he made the Olympic trials in 10th grade, he went to the Olympic trials and was the fastest high school swimmer in the country as a 10th grader,” Corcoran says. “I knew that he was pretty special.”
It’s been a fun ride for the coach, watching one of his own achieve an Olympic dream.
“He just recently sent me a flag, and it almost brought me to tears,” Corcoran says. “The gist of it was, 'you really believed in me, in making the Olympic trials and making the national team in open water swimming. And, I remember you talking to me about that when I was in 10th grade. I really think that's the reason I was able to do that.’”
“Looking back on that, it's really cool to be involved with somebody like that,” adds Corcoran.
Ryan placed fourth in the World Championships a year ago.
Corcoran says in open water anything can happen.
Hopefully, it gives Ryan a shot on the podium.
“We'll see what happens,” Corcoran says. “It'd be unbelievable if he won a medal. That would be unbelievable. It couldn't happen to a nicer kid.”
The race begins at 8am.
There will be a Sean Ryan viewing party on McCallie's campus later this morning for other swimming alumni and friends as well as faculty and students.
Channel 3 will be there to bring you live updates.