Mack Horton’s Olympic hopes still alive after spectacular heats in 200m freestyle


“It was quite comfortable. I wanted to push the peloton a little bit … it’s a quick, really fast swim, which is good. I have more in the tank for tonight which is exciting, ”Titmus said.

“The shoulder holds up. There have been a few complications over the past month which is really frustrating. I can do most of the things I want to do, but I just have to deal with it the best I can this week.

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Kaylee McKeown was the fastest in the 100m backstroke final and looks set to break the world record held by teenage American Regan Smith.

“Absolute champion”: swimmers praise Horton after the disappointment of the 400m

From the moment they left the pool after their 400m clash in Rio, all roads for Mack Horton and Sun Yang seemed to lead to another grudge match in Tokyo. So much had happened in between at the 2016 Games and there was so much more to come.

Now neither will likely be there in this event, with Sun’s fate hanging again on a decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport as he battles anti-doping charges and Horton unable to reserve his spot at the Australian Trials despite a weather which ranked him third best in the world this year.

Australian swimmer Mack Horton speaks at the swim uniform launch for the Tokyo 2020 Australian Olympics.Credit:Getty

It doesn’t matter when the two best times in the world are swam by teammates Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin. Strictly speaking, Horton’s 400m absence in Tokyo came as no complete surprise given the rise of his domestic rivals and his mixed form lately.

But it was still a shock. Many believed that his pedigree and experience would be enough to get him there and to the 300m point of the race, even he felt ready to take the final 100m. But after five years of honing their skills, his fighter squad would revise the champion.

No one will ever be able to take Olympic gold away from Horton and his stance on anti-doping, where he refused to share a podium with Sun in 2019, has made him somewhat of a cult hero in the ranks of Australian swimming.

McLoughlin, who has been forced to spend his time in Horton’s shadow for years, was quick to pay tribute to the 25-year-old and, along with Winnington, was quick to show his respect to Horton immediately after the race.

China's Sun Yang, center, with his gold as a silver medalist, Australia's Mack Horton, left, stands off the podium.

China’s Sun Yang, center, with his gold as a silver medalist, Australia’s Mack Horton, left, stands off the podium.Credit:PA

Winnington and McLoughlin are now posing as serious medal contenders in Tokyo and the latter has said he will do everything possible to defend Australia’s hold on the distance crown.

“He’s probably my most admired swimmer,” said McLoughlin. “And I see what he does in training, he’s an animal and I have so much respect for him. So now I feel like it’s up to Elijah and my duty to do well at the Olympics, because if we don’t really take that into account, we’ll drop it as well. “

Elijah Winnington celebrates his victory in the 400m freestyle.

Elijah Winnington celebrates his victory in the 400m freestyle.Credit:Getty

Bib and medley veteran Mitch Larkin, a close friend of Horton’s, said he would always be recognized as a champion and continue to be one of the team’s figureheads for future competitions and possibly even Paris in 2024.

“Mack, a little disappointing for him, but he’s an absolute champion in my mind,” Larkin said. “He’s done so much for the sport, his morals, what he believes in, the things he fights for, but all the credit goes to Elijah. He kept his cool and it’s not easy to beat the Olympic champion.

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Horton was entered in the 800m but that was not a major goal as he focused on shorter distances, not longer. On Saturday night he was fortunate enough to be part of the 4x200m freestyle relay team, where he was a major contributor to their gold medal at the world championships in 2019.

Even though he does not have an individual race, rest assured that Australian coaches will do their utmost to include him as a discretionary relay choice. His experience and calm, confident presence on the team could be the difference between a young swimmer who keeps his cool on the big stage or struggles with the pressure.


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