Mack Horton has won an epic men's 400m freestyle in the first night of swimming finals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, touching out Sun Yang of China by 0.13 of a second -- before unleashing a huge controversy with a gutsy outburst against drug tainted athletes.
Immediately after winning a thrilling race, Horton said he has "no time or respect for drug cheats". The comment appeared to be a direct shot across the bow of Yang, the defending Olympic champion in both the 400m and 1500m, who was banned for three months in 2014 after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
"It was definitely a win for the good guys," Horton said. "It is a rivalry between me and athletes that have tested positive."
"I don't think it was a big statement."
Horton, 20, had qualified second fastest for this final behind the American Conor Dwyer and started slowly. That was all part of the plan. Compatriot David McKeon led after 50m and Horton was nowhere. But he was soon 3rd after 100m, then 2nd after 300.
He turned first with 50m to go and used his 1500m strength as he fought off the Chinese on an epic last lap.
"I kept telling myself that I had this and I was in control and I could do it. I had my eye on everybody on the outside," he said.
"Going into like the third 100 or so he was a little bit behind and I knew if I picked up and got in front of him [China's Sun Yang] I could."
Horton is a Melburnian who wears thick-rimmed glasses out of the pool, and contacts in it, to cope with short-sightedness. He's yet another member of this Rio Australian swim team who looks a little nerdy and has the academic CV to go along with it. Horton is studying a uni commerce course online.
Emphasising his love of all things related to study, Horton at one point slept with a piece of paper above his bed with the list of age record holders for the 1500m freestyle. You've got to love this team.
This was the first of Horton's three events in Rio. He will also compete in the 1500m freestyle and the 4 x 200m freestyle relay.
This might've been his best chance for gold, but he's one of those athletes who is improving so fast, who knows about the 1500m now? Sun Yang would sure hate it if Horton took both his Olympic crowns.
But this looks like being an Olympics for the good guys. And with the cameraderie and integrity in the Australian team, that's us right now.Suggest a correction