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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Prison Mike

It‘s easy to say that you don‘t want to share a podium with a cheat after you lose, if he was so sure that he would do that he should have announced it before the race, not after having lost. I‘m not sure he would have done the same if he had won.


if he stated it before the race he would be accused of gamesmanship and trying to psych Sun out like he was in 2016 when he called Sun a doper before the finals.


Nobody probably interviewed Horton before the meet because most weren’t expecting him to medal.


Harsh but true 😀

Brigitte Garstang

Not expected to medal? I don’t think this a ‘new stance’ he is taking. He said this back in 2016. When he won the gold medal in this event in Rio.


He was hardly in anyone’s medal predictions – probably because he didn’t even make the AUS team until added as a (very rare for Australia) ‘discretionary’.


Pretty sure he would have happily stood on top of the podium if he won.


what difference does that make? get out of your nonsense dude


Good for you!


Horton is such a shameless loser!

kevin roose

and i bet you are chinese


Sounds like a sensitive loser too


What a “meaningful and powerful” way to embarass yourself and defile “clean sport” by throwing unfounded and biased accusation on Sun. You either stripp the gold medal from him based on official report and hard evidence, or stop being a sour loser like Horton and congradulate Sun on his fourth straight world title.


Theres plenty of hard evidence that Sun is not only a man child (see incident in Porsche) but also a serial doper.


Chinese trolls out in force here. I’m pretty sure the entire world thinks smashing his blood testing vials with a hammer is evidence of drug cheating.


The entire world- minus the official drug testing body…


Horton is loser with no class.


If he really wanted to protest then don’t get in the pool. Don’t compete f you want to make a stand. Doing this stunt after you raced and lost makes him look like a sore loser, and to be honest it does.
I don’t know why everyone is making a Horton out of nothing. This case is still ongoing so let’s wait to see what the result of the investigation tells us. To do this now is disrespectful and unsportmanship. We are better than this. Sun deserves his win and should not be made to feel like it was undeserved. Respect all athletes as Sun would had Horton won.


Agreed. There are procedures and institutions in place, WADA and CAS, to handle these matters. We don’t know all the details of the investigation and the bizarre circumstances of the blood smashing vial incident. Horton represents the country of Australia, and to protest and put political
views into this matter is in poor taste. And yes,
I think Lily King behaved absolutely atrociously on the world stage. And Megan Rapinoe too for that matter. Let’s use the world athletic stage to protest every political incivility, grievance, and opposition. It’s not the right platform for it in my view.


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!


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


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.


Mack Horton waiting for his Instagram to get bombarded again

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Texas Tap Water

You have the best memes in the whole swimming universe



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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