One wonders if the next time Mackenzie "Mack" Horton and Sun Yang take to the pool against each other again they might want to throw on Taylor Swift's song "Bad Blood".
The two have been feuding since as early as 2014, when Sun was first suspended for three months by the Chinese Swimming Association for testing positive for a then-banned stimulant called trimetazidine. Yang and the CSA came under fire for not properly disclosing his ban in a timely manner.
Australian swimmer Mack Horton grabbed international headlines around the world on Sunday when he added another chapter to their bitter rivalry.
Horton, 23, refused to join China's Sun, 27, on the podium after the 400m freestyle final at the 2019 Fina World Aquatics Championships in South Korea. Horton, who lost to Sun by 0.73 of a second in Sunday's opening night of the swimming portion of the eight-day competition, also refused to shake Sun's hand.
Sun is awaiting a hearing in September at the Court of Arbitration of Sport, after the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed against a decision to clear him of a separate doping offence. Various reports have alleged Sun destroyed vials containing his blood samples in front of testers with a hammer at the demand of the swimmer's mother, which Sun has denied. Last week, Australia's Daily Telegraph posted a 59-page leaked report that was written by the Fina doping panel following a hearing in which Sun was alleged to have refused to comply with drug tests and accused testers of being biased.
Horton was born in Melbourne, Australia, and began swimming at the age of 10 after overcoming a fear of water and by 13 had broken his first Australian record. Horton's coming of age party was the 2012 Junior Pan Pacific Championships where he broke the meet record in the 1,500m freestyle. A year later he competed in his last junior event at the World Junior Championships in Dubai where he won five gold medals and one silver and broke five meet records.
By 2014, he had been identified as a rising star of the Australia swimming team. His senior debut in 2014 was impressive, as he won a gold at the Commonwealth Games as part of the 800m freestyle relay. He also nabbed a silver in the 1,500m freestyle.
In 2015, Horton grabbed three national titles and finished third in the 800m freestyle, behind Sun, at the world championships. His feud with Sun started before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, when Horton first called Yang a drug cheat.
Horton ended up winning the 400m freestyle in Rio at the age of 20, in his Olympic debut, in a shock upset of Sun, the event favourite. Horton clocked in at 3:41.55 and after the race was over in an interview he took a jab at Sun calling his victory "a win for the good guys". The CSA demanded an apology for the comment, stating that Horton had launched a "malicious personal attack". The Australian refused to apologise and the Australian Olympic Committee backed his comments.
There was also a report in which Horton accused Sun of deliberately splashing him during a training session in Rio. During the 2017 world championships, Horton came second in the 400m freestyle, beating Yang, and media reports noted a rather telling glare from Yang after the race was over.
There was also a spat between the two during training for the world championships this year when the two were given lanes beside each other in the practice pool in South Korea. Sun's coach, who is Australian, moved the Chinese swimmer away from Horton. On Horton's official website, he recalls the Olympic event with Sun in his biography and notes the Chinese swimmer is "one of his great rivals".
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