Now that the dust has settled from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, swimmers are taking stock of their performances and making adjustments heading into 800 days left until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremonies. Among two of those athletes fine-tuning their event portfolios are Australian Mack Horton and Brit James Guy. Both men have been influential across several events on the international swimming scene, but have recently decided to say good-bye to one in the name of maximizing their efforts elsewhere.
In the Gold Coast last week, Guy completed a grueling schedule consisting of the 400m free, 200m free, 100m fly and 200m fly plus relays. He raced his way to individual bronze in the 400m free on night 1 and followed that up with silver behind South African Chad Le Clos in the 100m fly towards the end of the meet. However, immediately following his podium-producing outing in 400m, Guy posted that the race signified his ‘last 400 ever in a big competition.’
For the 22-year-old Bath athlete, the decision makes sense. After breaking through with a silver in the 400m at the 2015 World Championships, clocking a new British national record, Guy has simmered down a tad in terms of making giant strides in the race. His time from 2015 was a head-turning 3:43.75, while his result from the Gold Coast fell back by more than a second 3 years later to 3:45.32.
Guy has been making major strides, however, in the 100m and 200m butterfly events. He took bronze in the former at the 2017 World Championships and also snatched the aforementioned silver in the sprint. Focusing on the fly events will help enable Guy to fine-tune his racing strategies and train how he needs to train in order to step up and challenge Le Clos, America’s Caeleb Dressel and Jack Conger, and the Japanese trio of Masato Sakai, Nao Horumura and Daiya Seto on the road to Tokyo.
As for Horton, the writing was on the wall in terms of the Aussie signing off on his 1500m freestyle career, despite winning a respectable bronze on his home turf Commonwealth Games.
“I think you know what’s happening to the 1500,” Horton said this week to The Sydney Morning Herald. “I don’t know if it’s my last one but it’s on its way out. With the 800m being added into the Olympic program I was either going to have to go 200-400-800 or 400-800-1500.
“It’s looking like 200-400-800. I did a PB in the 200m without actually training for it. I think we’re heading that direction.”
Horton surprised his native land at the 2017 edition of the Australian National Championships by winning the 200m freestyle national title above such stalwarts as Kyle Chalmers, David McKeon and Daniel Smith. At this year’s championships, he notched a silver medal behind Chalmers, who would wind up winning the Commonwealth Title. In addition to 200m silver, Horton also took Commonwealth gold in the 400m free event.
Although Horton has been prolific in the 1500m since 2014, he was usually just steps behind the world’s best, whether it be 5th behind a pair of Italians in Gregorio Paltrinieri and Gabriele Detti and two Americans in the form of Connor Jaeger and Jordan Wilimovsky in Rio; or, a 10-second behind bronze at last year’s World Championships behind winner Paltrinieri and runner-up Myhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine.
Reflecting on his 1500m career, Horton told SMH, “I’ve been in denial for a long time. I think [Coach] Craig [Jackson] has known for a while. He’s just been watching me to realise it’s the right decision. Having Greg train with me for the last couple of months has helped solidify that decision.”
Also solidifying the decision is the fact that the men’s 800m freestyle is now added to the Olympic schedule. That alteration is making Horton do a reverse of his 2017 opinion in Budapest that, ‘the 800 free doesn’t rank too highly’ as he dropped out of the event at Worlds. Now, expect the Melbourne Vicentre swimmer to focus on the 200m/400m/800m trio for Tokyo.