Horton cops brutal reality check
THE bitter feud between Australian Mack Horton and China's Sun Yang has added its latest chapter at the Swimming World Championships.
Horton's refusal to stand alongside Sun following the 400m freestyle final made global headlines and split the sporting world.
Sun labelled the protest a sign of "disrespect" towards China, but a host of former Olympians along with the athletes village have backed Horton for refusing to step on to the podium.
The pair were back in the pool on the third day of the FINA World Championships and it was once again Sun who emerged victorious between the pair.
Unfortunately after four heats the tantalising prospect of another medal showdown between the duo has been dashed with Horton copping a brutal reality check.
Horton was added to the Australian swim team as a discretionary pick after failing to make the grade in either the 200m, 400m or 800m.
Sun entered the water before Horton after racing in the third heat and while the Chinese star couldn't keep up with the three men ahead of hiM, his time of 7:48.12 was enough to earn him the final spot in the final.
Horton started the final heat perfectly before fading in the middle of the race and touching the wall eighth in a time of 7:52.65 to finish 14th overall and miss out on the final.
Fellow Aussie Jack McLoughlin took out the fourth and final heat, edging out Norway's Henrik Christiansen in a time of 7:46.42. His time was the third fastest overall from the heats.
While many had hoped the final would see Sun and Horton once again lock horns, the attention will now turn to McLoughlin and what may eventuate should he end up on the podium alongside Sun.
Fellow Aussie Mitch Larkin stated "99 per cent" of athletes at Gwangju backed Horton's Sun snub, including "100 per cent of the Aussies".
"I think 100 per cent of the Aussie athletes certainly back Mack up. While he was standing alone on the podium last night he's not standing alone in spirit," he said.
"I would say 99 per cent of the athletes here support what he does. We are all fighting for a clean sport."
Of course McLoughlin might not take a similar stance to Horton after the Aussie Olympic champ was sent a warning letter from the sports governing body.
The executive of FINA met to discuss the issue and will send Horton a warning letter, suggesting the medal ceremony was not the appropriate time for the 23-year-old to make his protest.
"The FINA Executive met today in Gwangju (KOR) to analyse the situation related with the men's 400m free victory ceremony and has decided to send a warning letter to Swimming Australia Ltd and to athlete Mack Horton (AUS)," FINA said in a statement.
"While FINA respects the principle of freedom of speech, it has to be conducted in the right context.
"As in all major sports organisations, our athletes and their entourages are aware of their responsibilities to respect FINA regulations and not use FINA events to make personal statements or gestures.
"The matter over which Mack Horton was allegedly protesting is currently under review by CAS and therefore it is not appropriate for FINA to prejudice this hearing by commenting further."