Olympic champ Mack Horton misses Australia swim team in 400m freestyle

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Mack Horton, the Rio Olympic 400m freestyle champion, did not make the Australian swim team for Tokyo in the event.

Horton, a 25-year-old from Melbourne, finished third on the opening night of the Olympic Trials in Adelaide on Saturday. The top two made the team.

Elijah Winnington won in 3:42.65, prevailing by .62 over Jack McLoughlin. Horton, who won the Rio Olympics in 3:41.55, touched in 3:43.92.

“I was just on the wrong side of the pool, breathing the wrong way, I literally gave it everything,” Horton, who swam the final length of the pool breathing to the opposite side of Winnington and McLoughlin, said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “Every time you turn in the 300m, you always question if there is another 100m in there. That was the same today, clearly not enough.”

In 2016 in Rio, Horton became the first Australian man to win an individual Olympic swimming title since Grant Hackett in the 1500m freestyle at the 2004 Athens Games.

But Horton is known more for a feud with silver medalist Sun Yang of China, who might miss Tokyo altogether. Horton can still make the Australian team later at Trials in other events.

The Horton-Sun feud ignited at the Rio Olympics. Horton called Sun a “drug cheat” before the 400m free 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.

The rivalry resumed at the 2019 World Championships. Sun won the 400m free, with Horton taking silver in a repeat of the 2017 Worlds podium.

Unlike 2017, 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.

Sun was suspended for eight years in February 2020, but in December a Swiss court lifted the ban and ordered the case back to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a second time but with a different chairman of the judges.

The Swiss court ruling appeared to have swung on an objection by Sun’s lawyers to the chairman of the three-judge panel, former Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini.

Federal judges ruled the guilty verdict unsafe because Frattini showed anti-Chinese bias in social media comments.

The court set May 25-27 for the hearing to be held in private by video link. A new CAS verdict is expected before the Tokyo Olympics open on July 23.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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