Australian swimmer Mack Horton, gold medalist in the 400m freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics and fierce anti-doping activist, announced that he would end his career on Sunday, a few months before the Paris Olympics.
“I absolutely wanted to swim in Paris, but the desire is not there,” he said in a press release. “I've always wanted to give the best of myself and I'm not someone who just wants to do stats, so it's the right time to stop,” said the 27-year-old swimmer.
Horton was crowned Olympic champion in the 400m freestyle at the Rio Games in 2016 ahead of China's Sun Yang. While he also won titles at the world championships and Commonwealth Games, it was the 400m at the 2019 Gwangju Worlds in South Korea that made him famous.
During the medal ceremony, Horton refused to shake the hand of the Chinese, crowned over the distance, and to stand on the podium alongside him, thus reviving a controversy dating from Rio where he had described Sun as a “cheater” . Which will remain the strong image of these World Championships.
Sun, a three-time Olympic champion, then received an eight-year ban after destroying samples of his blood during an unannounced doping test. This sanction was reduced to four years on appeal by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
While Horton's position earned him widespread support from the swimming world, it provoked a furious reaction in China, where his Instagram account was polluted with unwanted messages, with some users even making death threats.