The feud between distance freestylers Australian Mack Horton and Sun Yang of China garnered a lot of attention during the first week in Rio the evidence of that can be found on Horton’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. It has been reported by the Daily Mail that Horton received half a million angry comments on one of his Instagram posts.
Horton said that the response affected his social media accounts, but not his focus or performance in Rio, “It affected my social media more than it affected me. I had 500,000 comments on one of my Instagram photos and it was just all hate from Chinese people,” Horton told Channel 7.
“I was aware of it, but I didn’t let it distract me during the week.”
The reaction of the Chinese public came after Horton called Sun, who is one of the most popular athletes in China, a drug cheat referring to a positive drug test in 2014. To add insult to injury Horton went on to defeat the Olympic champion in the 400 freestyle by 13 one-hundredths of a second. A defeat that Sun did not handle well.
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) August 7, 2016
Below are a few examples of tweets that Horton has received.
@_mackhorton You should know that :if Chinese people hate you ,there is one point three billion people hate you .Take care of urself ,low B
— 、贺宛如 (@992675012) August 15, 2016
— 永远热泪盈眶 (@xueyaozhou0) August 23, 2016
@_mackhorton Why didn’t you drown.
— 赵小呆 (@zxlicy) August 22, 2016
In an interview on SEN Breakfast Horton said he hoped that the reaction would help clean up the sport, “(I was) not shocked (by the reaction), I think it was actually a good thing, trying to promote clean sport,” said Horton.
“If this is the reaction and it gets clean sport out in the air amongst athletes, then that’s a good thing.”
“I don’t think it was a distraction I just focused back in on the processes that were required to get on with the week.”
Before Rio the only time the two had faced off against each other at a major international competition was in the 800 freestyle at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan. Sun took the event in a time of 7:39.96 while Horton finished third in a time of 7:44.02.