Mack Horton’s family details harassment after Sun Yang doping comments

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Mack Horton‘s family said they received death threats, had their home broken into and believe other forms of abuse were retaliation after the Australian swimmer labeled now-banned Chinese star Sun Yang a “drug cheat” at the Rio Olympics and made a podium protest at the 2019 World Championships, according to a report.

“My primary concern has been my family,” Horton said, according to the Australian. “To be honest, initially I wasn’t aware of a lot of what was going on as my parents tried to protect me. To see and hear the impact it has had on those I love most has been the most upsetti­ng part.”

Horton’s family said people hurled dog feces over their fence, banged pots and pans in an alley behind the house and verbally abused them from the driveway. Plants were poisoned. Horton’s mom, Cheryl, found “a bucket load” of broken glass at the bottom of their pool, according to the report.

“We keep it on the desk in the study,” she said, according to the report, “as a reminder of how bad things got.”

The Horton-Sun feud ignited at the Rio Olympics. Horton called Sun a “drug cheat” before the 400m freestyle final. Sun had been suspended three months in 2014 for a banned stimulant, though the punishment wasn’t announced by Chinese officials until after he served the time.

Horton went on to win the event, .13 ahead of silver medalist Sun.

The rivalry resumed at the world championships last summer. Sun won the 400m free, with Horton taking silver in a repeat of the 2017 Worlds podium.

Unlike 2017, this time Horton refused to stand on the podium for the Chinese anthem and appeared not to shake Sun’s hand. He stood a step away from Sun and bronze medalist Gabriele Detti of Italy for customary post-medal ceremony photos.

“Frustration, I think you know what respect,” Horton told media in Gwangju, South Korea. “I think you know what the rivalry is like. … His actions and, I guess, how it’s been handled, speak louder than anything I’ll ever say.”

At the time, Sun was competing ahead of a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing. There were reports that he and his security guard used a hammer to smash a vial of the swimmer’s blood in a clash with drug testers in September 2018.

Horton’s father said the abuse the family was receiving on a daily basis “eased off” in February, according to the Australian.

At the end of that month, Sun was banned eight years for the drug-testers clash, a potentially career-ending sanction he reportedly planned to appeal.

MORE: Rowdy Gaines’ Olympic swimming storylines for 2021

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”

Ilia Malinin wins U.S. Figure Skating Championships despite quadruple Axel miss

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One year ago, Ilia Malinin came to the U.S. Championships as, largely, a 17-year-old unknown. He finished second to Nathan Chen in 2022 and was left off the three-man Olympic team due to his inexperience, a committee decision that lit a fire in him.

After the biggest year of change in U.S. figure skating in three decades, Malinin came to this week’s nationals in San Jose, California, as the headliner across all disciplines.

Though he fell on his quadruple Axel and doubled two other planned quads in Sunday’s free skate (the most ambitious program in history), he succeeded the absent Chen as national champion.

Malinin, the world’s second-ranked male singles skater, still landed two clean quads in Friday’s short program and three more Sunday. He totaled 287.74 points and prevailed by 10.43 over two-time Olympian Jason Brown, a bridge between the Chen and Malinin eras.

“This wasn’t the skate that I wanted,” said Malinin, who was bidding to become the second man to land six quads in one program after Chen. The Virginia chalked up the flaws at least partially to putting more recent practice time into his short program, which he skated clean on Friday after errors in previous competitions.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

Brown, a 28-year-old competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Olympics, became the oldest male singles skater to finish in the top three at nationals since Jeremy Abbott won the last of his four titles in 2014. As usual, he didn’t attempt a quad but had the highest artistic score by 9.41 points.

Brown’s seven total top-three finishes at nationals tie him with Chen, Michael WeissBrian Boitano, David Jenkins and Dick Button for the second-most in men’s singles since World War II, trailing only Todd Eldredge‘s and Hayes Jenkins‘ eight.

“I’m not saying it’s super old, but I can’t train the way I used to,” Brown said after Friday’s short program. “What Ilia is doing and the way he is pushing the sport is outstanding and incredible to watch. I cannot keep up.”

Andrew Torgashev took bronze, winning the free skate with one quad and all clean jumps. Torgashev, who competed at nationals for the first time since placing fifth in 2020 at age 18, will likely round out the three-man world team.

Japan’s Shoma Uno will likely be the favorite at worlds. He won last year’s world title, when Malinin admittedly cracked under pressure in the free skate after a fourth-place short program and ended up ninth.

That was before Malinin became the first person to land a quad Axel in competition. That was before Malinin became the story of the figure skating world this fall. That was before Malinin took over the American throne from Chen, who is studying at Yale and not expected to return to competition.

Malinin’s next step is to grab another label that Chen long held: best in the world. To do that, he must be better than he was on Sunday.

“You always learn from your experiences, and there’s always still the rest of the season to come,” he said. “I just have to be prepared and prepare a little bit extra so that doesn’t happen again.”

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