The reigning 400m freestyle Olympic champion, Mack Horton, surprised the crowd in Brisbane last April, winning the men’s 200m freestyle at Australia’s Swimming Championships. Although not within the world’s top 5 marks, Horton’s winning time of 1:46.83 was solid enough to beat out the likes of 100m freestyle Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers and defending Australian national champion Cameron McEvoy. Not usually on the 21-year-old’s schedule, the 200m freestyle was an unexpected win, one which Horton said, at the time, would not be on his individual schedule come the 2017 World Championships.
Now almost two months removed from the competition, however, Horton has taken on a different tone. Per The Australian, National Team Head Coach Jacco Verhaeren confirmed this week that the Melbourne Vicentre swimmer will indeed be contesting the 200m freestyle, in addition to the already-planned 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle races in Budapest.
The last Aussie to take on the monster freestyle event schedule was distance ace Grant Hackett, who scored gold in the 400m/800m/1500m and a silver in the 200m freestyle at the 2005 edition of the World Championships. Horton himself has undertaken the endeavor back in 2013 at the World Junior Championships and was extremely successful, reaping gold across all 4 freestyle distances.
With a superb training base due to his being an elite international player in the mile, Horton prides himself on being able to run down the competition even in such a race as short as the 200m. In Brisbane in his title-winning race, Horton was 8th after the opening 100m, notching a split of 53.38, but released his fury on the back-half. He closed in 53.45 to secure the gold in a winning mark of 1:46.83, a personal best and the first time Horton ever dipped under the 1:47 threshold.
Horton’s taking on the 200m free in Budapest also means fans will almost surely be treated to another showdown with nemesis Sun Yang of China. Battling only in the 400m free in Rio, Horton came out on top of Sun, but the Chinese Olympian took the 200m free gold, winning in the only sub-1:45 second time of the Horton-less stacked field.
With Horton only having raced the 200m event internationally a handful of times, it’s unlikely he’d knock another 2 seconds or so off of his new personal best to come in line with Sun. But, then again, the pair are used to racing neck and neck on the world stage, with Horton beating him only by .13 in the 400m Rio final.
Joining Horton for the Australians will be Alexander Graham, the man who notched 3rd place in the 200m freestyle at the Australian Swimming Championships. With the silver medalist, Kyle Chalmers, now out of Worlds, Graham will take over as the 2nd Aussie in the 200m free, while Jack Cartwright will take Chalmers’ spot in the 100m sprint, according to The Australian.