Mack Horton Abstains from 400 Free Podium Celebrations in Protest of Sun Yang


The first podium ceremony of the 2019 FINA World Championships came with a heavy dose of drama.

Australia’s Mack Horton, the silver medalist in Sunday’s 400 free final in Gwangju, protested gold medalist Sun Yang‘s presence by abstaining from podium celebrations, standing behind the platform on the floor during the Chinese national anthem.

Horton also kept an intentional distance between himself, Sun, and bronze medalist Gabriele Detti during post-podium photo ops in addition to his demonstration during the medal ceremony:

Horton, 23, has long had somewhat of a rivalry with the triple Olympic champion Sun, who is currently embroiled in a doping investigation.

Their back-and-forth goes back to the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. While competing there, Sun had splashed Horton while in the warm-up pool, with Horton telling the media, “He splashed me to say hi and I ignored him because I don’t have time for drug cheats.”

At the time, Sun responded by accusing Horton of playing mind games to destabilize him. “I don’t think I need to explain myself any further. I have done what it takes to prove I’m clean … all athletes should be shown respect. On the competition stage, every athlete deserves to be respected and there’s no need to use these sorts of cheap tricks to affect each other.

Now, Sun is facing a CAS hearing in September regarding the World Anti-Doping Agency’s appeal case against FINA’s decision not to sanction the world record holder over his blood vial-smashing incident in September.

In pre-meet warmups, the pair were reportedly intentionally given a wide buffer during a warm-up session. Sun and Horton were slated to warm-up right next to one another in lanes 3 and 4 in the practice pool before Sun’s Aussie Coach Denis Cotterell moved the Chinese swimmer to lane 5, according to The South China Morning Post.

“I just won’t share a podium with someone who behaves in the way he does,” Horton said after the race Sunday. He asked Detti to do the same, but the Italian said something to the effect of: “I worked too hard for the bronze, I want the podium.”

Sun took first place and won his four world title in the event in 3:42.44. Horton took second in 3:43.17, and Detti third in 3:43.23.

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2 years ago

Sun Yang is a legend. He has the ability to really stir the pot in the swimming world and I absolutely love it. This sport needs some drama like this.

3 years ago

Horton is a sore loser. What he has shown was paranoid plain and simple. Where is evidence Sun Yang cheated. Suspicions don’t make a crime.

3 years ago

Plain and simple, Mack Horton is just sore loser. Another way to describe this phenomenon is called “Anglo Pride”. Many Anglos really think they own the sports and anyone else who beat them are suspected of cheating. The best example is 1972 men’s Olympic basketball. Soviets won fair and square, and team USA staged a podium protest as they couldn’t imagine losing in a sport that they “owned”. Mack Horton’s podium protest was just continuing a long line of Anglo tradition.

3 years ago

hi, any comments on austrulian swimmer shayna jack who is tested positive for banned substance this seek

3 years ago

As a Kiwi, we give you Aussies a hard time, but my respect for this man is beyond words. DONT BACK DOWN WHEN YOU ARE ON THE SIDE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Shame on the governing body giving Mark a warning instead of their
SUPPORT. A true HERO in my mind!

Maarten Fields
3 years ago

Loser 👎

3 years ago

Did anyone notice that the awarding guest got angry and refused to award Horton a mascot?Horton did not even pay respect to the awarding guests. He did not deserve it!!

Reply to  David
3 years ago

What a shame!

Reply to  David
3 years ago

Yeah, I noticed that Horton was not holding a mascot. I thought that they forgot to give one to him… so they intentionally did that?

Reply to  BlueCheeseMouse
3 years ago

They didn’t forgot. The awarding guest, a lady, was holding a mascot. She walked in front of him, seeing what he did, got angry and turned around directly.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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