Australian Olympic Gold Medalist Mack Horton Retires From Competitive Swimming

by Riley Overend 43

January 20th, 2024 Australia, International, News

Australian Olympic gold medalist Mack Horton is ending his 17-year career in competitive swimming to begin a new job at an advertising firm in Sydney on Monday.

The 27-year-old Horton said he was planning on pursuing a third Olympics in Paris this summer until last year’s Australian Trials, where he missed the World Championships team in the 400-meter freestyle (3:46.71) by more than three seconds behind Elijah Winnington (3:43.48) and Sam Short (3:43.38).

“Usually when I am not satisfied with a swim, I’ll touch the wall and there is clarity – ‘This is what I need to fix, this is what I need to do’ – and I’m really motivated to do it,” Horton told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I touched the wall and for the first time ever, I had none of that. I had done everything that anyone has ever asked of me. I had tried as hard as I can and I just didn’t know if I could go faster.

“Up until that moment I believed my best would still beat the best in the world. And then it just kind of clicked. I’m an all-in kind of guy and I can’t level down that belief. There is no point doing it if I don’t believe my best is going to win. That is all I know.”

Since last year’s Australian Trials, Horton reduced his training load form his usual two-a-day schedule to three or four sessions per week at Griffith University under coach Michael Bohl. Two weeks ago, he informed Bohl of his decision to retire.

Horton’s career highlight came at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where he captured a gold medal in the 400 free with a personal-best 3:41.55 at 20 years old.

At the 2019 World Championships, he staged a silent protest by refusing to share the 400 free podium with four-time defending champion Sun Yang, whom Horton had called a “drug cheat” at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Yang was later dealt a four-year ban for allegedly interfering with an attempted drug test, which is keeping him out of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

When asked whether athletes should have more faith in anti-doping controls today compared to 2016, Horton said, “I’d like to think so, but I just don’t know. I’m sure there is science we don’t even know about. Everyone is always looking for an edge.”

Along with his silver in the 400 free from 2019, Horton also won Worlds medals in the 800 free (bronze in 2015), 1500 free (bronze in 2019), 4×200 free relay (gold in 2021, silver in 2022), and 400 free (silver in 2021). At the Commonwealth Games, he captured eight medals in total, including an individual title in the 400 free in 2018.

“When I think back to when I was younger and how I wanted to end my career, I always wanted to love swimming at the end,” Horton said. “I still love swimming. You never feel bad after a swim. You always feel better, you feel cleaner and fresher, the mind feels better. It’s the perfect way to start the day.”

Last September, Horton married high school sweetheart Ella Walter, a neonatal intensive care nurse.

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cant kick cant pull
5 months ago

best DPS the world has ever seen

5 months ago


Miss M
5 months ago

So many brilliant memories of Horton’s heroics. A statesman of the sport. He’ll be missed.

Dave Carson
5 months ago

After Rio I was sure he would become the next Hackett/Thorpe. Does anybody know what happened to him? Why did he not improve in the following 7 years?

Reply to  Dave Carson
5 months ago

Some injuries.
Also a lot of stress with regards to social media – many attacking him and his stand against Yang. His family was also threatened I heard.

Last edited 5 months ago by Joel
Beatriz Cortez
Reply to  Joel
5 months ago

Yeah there were articles about his family receiving threats.

Reply to  Dave Carson
5 months ago

Whilst both Thorpe & Hackett had the capacity to be fast (relative to their events) whenever they swam; Horton was a very different animal = a strictly taper only performer. Outside of then, he was uncompetitive.

In short, he only ever had a certain number of fast swims in him per year and this quota became less and less as his career progressed. Why ? Who knows, quite probably some injuries played a part.

He was never a favourite of mine but his international CV deserves respect and one wishes him success in whatever direction(s) his life takes in the future.

5 months ago

One of my favourite swimmers.

Good luck in the future Mack & thanks for all the highlights.

5 months ago

Someone should upload that 2019 4×2 to YouTube.

5 months ago

My strongest memory of Mack is actually the last leg he swam in the 4×200 Free at the world champs in 2019. That was absolutely phenomenal, I think there were 5 teams in a straight line when he jumped in and he just cranked it up

5 months ago

Mack Horton what a career. Whilst your retirement comes with little surprise given the moves made in distance swimming the past couple of years we will miss your presence and spirit. Your Rio Olympic gold is still one of my favourites swims which I still have recorded. I distinctly remember screaming at the tv. More importantly was your stand against drug cheats in our sport and the refusal to stand on the podium with Sun Yang. This took great courage and strength and was one of the bravest things in our sport in recent years. We all remember Sun Yang smashing his blood vial and likely lots of your medals which should have been upgraded creating a legacy for your… Read more »

Reply to  Kelsey
5 months ago

Never stood up against Aussie drug cheats

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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