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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1 year ago

Mack Horton waiting for his Instagram to get bombarded again

comment image

Texas Tap Water
Reply to  Pvdh
1 year ago

You have the best memes in the whole swimming universe

1 year ago


1 year ago

The thing is, he wouldn’t be doing this if he had won.

Reply to  Swimnerd
1 year ago

Come on. Is that your take. I was a big fan of Sun Yang in 2012 but I can’t look at his swims the same way anymore.

Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger
Reply to  Swimnerd
1 year ago

No one does xenophobia quite like the Australians

Reply to  Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger
1 year ago

This is just a blatant lie. Try America? Just go through a list of quotes from the man who was voted in as president by almost half of the population. If those aren’t heavy implications I don’t know what are…
What you have here is a clean athlete thinking “it isn’t fair for a roided-up athlete to claim the Gold”, so he doesn’t want to acknowledge it. What does that have to do with being xenophobic? It’s not as though he’s been beaten fair-and-square so he should just suck it up and zip his lip. He isn’t just being a sore loser. Sun Yang is a DRUG CHEAT, that is a fact. Horton has every right to act this… Read more »

Maybe if he were from Queensland
Reply to  Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger
1 year ago

Coincidentally the Chinese are considered to be among the most xenophobic people.

It’s not really about that anyway. He’s standing up for clean swimming.

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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