MEDAL WINNERS: China's gold medal winner Sun Yang, flanked by Italy's bronze medal winner Gabriele Detti (left) and Australia's silver medal winner Mack Horton celebrate after the men's 400-meter freestyle final during the world championships in Budapest, Hungary.
MEDAL WINNERS: China's gold medal winner Sun Yang, flanked by Italy's bronze medal winner Gabriele Detti (left) and Australia's silver medal winner Mack Horton celebrate after the men's 400-meter freestyle final during the world championships in Budapest, Hungary. Darko Bandic

'Soft' Aussie not happy with loss to rival

AUSTRALIA'S Olympic champion Mack Horton has lost round two of his ongoing stoush with China's Sun Yang in the 400m freestyle at the world championships in Budapest.

Sun retained his world title in 3min 41.38sec, fractionally faster than Horton's winning time at last year's Olympics, and then celebrated as if he had won both gold medals.

Horton claimed the silver medal in 3min 43.85sec, his first world championships medal in this event.

There was some reverse alchemy going on in the Australian team. Both of the gold medals from the first night of the Rio Olympics were converted to silver medals in Budapest, as the women's 4x100m freestyle relay team was touched out by the US team.

But back to the 400m, there is no love lost between the Chinese and the Australian, although neither wanted to exacerbate their feud. Sun started the rivalry when he tried to intimidate Horton in the warm up pool in Rio and Horton responded by telling the media he didn't have time for "drug cheats”.

Sun served a secret three-month suspension in 2014 after he tested positive for a banned heart medication. With another gold medal in hand, he said Horton's comments were "water under the bridge”.

Horton said before this event that the 400m final would be a race between "clean athletes and those who have tested positive”.

Afterwards, he said he was more disappointed with his time than his placing.

"The time stings a bit more (than being beaten by Sun),” he said.

"I thought I could swim a lot faster tonight, I thought I was capable of more tonight, but it's the start of the next cycle and this is what I have to work on and improve on for the next couple of years towards Tokyo.”

Australia's Mack Horton competes in a men's 400-meter freestyle heat. Horton claimed silver in the final behind rival China's Sun Yang.
Australia's Mack Horton competes in a men's 400-meter freestyle heat. Horton claimed silver in the final behind rival China's Sun Yang. Darko Bandic

"I tried to be a bit stronger in the front end tonight but I was too soft,” he said.

"I think. I needed to be a bit harder on myself but it's the start of the cycle, I can work on that.”

Asked what he thought about the fact that Sun is coached by Australian Denis Cotterell, Horton would say only: "You are touching all my sore spots”.

On the podium, Horton acknowledged Sun, applauding as he received his gold medal, and then offered him a handshake that looked more like an arm wrestle.

But the 21-year-old Aussie said it was not uncomfortable on the podium.

"(It was) Entertaining, I think,” he said.

"There was no awkwardness, I thought it was fun.”

Horton has a heavy program this week and will be back in the water for the 200m freestyle heats on Monday.

"Tonight is going to be a tough turn around because I have the 200m tomorrow and I don't have the luxury of relaxing in a heat like I did this morning. I have to be on tomorrow and hopefully get through to that final.”

Australia's Ariarne Titmus made a fine international debut finishing fourth in the women's 400m freestyle final.
Australia's Ariarne Titmus made a fine international debut finishing fourth in the women's 400m freestyle final. Clive Rose

Olympic champion Katie Ledecky triumphed in 3min 58.34sec, from fellow American Leah Smith (4:01.54) and 15-year-old Chinese Li Bingjie (4:03.25).

Titmus equalled the personal best time she set in the heats (4:04.26) and has already proved that she has a big-occasion temperament.

She had hoped to swim faster in the final but she said that she had felt the effort of the morning heat swim in her body.

"It was really fun. I really enjoyed it with the crowd. I did want to go a bit faster tonight but I think having to push the heat this morning a lot harder than I'm used to, took a bit out of me but that's really good learning experience and I have to get used to doing that when I'm racing the best in the world.”

The Olympic champion Australian women's sprint relay put up a strong defence of their 2015 world title but they were always up against it without the services of spiritual leader Cate Campbell and with Bronte Campbell racing injured.

However they went very close to stealing the gold medal from the Americans, when anchorwoman Emma McKeon challenged Olympic champion Simone Manuel down the last lap.

But Manuel just held out to stop the clock in 3min 31.72sec. McKeon registered a personal best split of 52.29sec to claim the silver medal in 3:32.01.

Teenager Shayna Jack, the newcomer to this team, led off in 53.75sec, handing over to Campbell, who defied her troubled preparation to swim 52.14sec, while dual Olympic relay gold medallist Brittany Elmslie put in a solid 53.83sec effort.

Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom checks the clock after one of her heat swims. The Swede shocked the swimming world with her lead off swim in the women's relay final breaking Cate Campbell's 100m freestyle world record and beating the 52-second barrier with a time of 51.71.
Sweden's Sarah Sjostrom checks the clock after one of her heat swims. The Swede shocked the swimming world with her lead off swim in the women's relay final breaking Cate Campbell's 100m freestyle world record and beating the 52-second barrier with a time of 51.71. Clive Rose

Sjotrom took the women's sprint into a new era by smashing through the 52-second barrier, in 51.71sec.

She will be an unbackable favourite to win the individual 100m title later this week, although reigning world champion Bronte Campbell will also be in the medal mix.

Before then, she should retain her world 100m butterfly title, after qualifying fastest for the final in 55.77sec.

McKeon could well be the silver medallist there too after equalling Jessicah Schipper's Australian record (56.23sec) to qualify second fastest.

The young men's 4x100m freestyle relay team was disqualified for an illegal changeover after touching fifth.

American Caeleb Dressel assumed favouritism for the men's 100m freestyle title after leading off his winning team in 47.26sec.

Australian gun Cameron McEvoy, one of the lightest men in the field, swam the third leg, diving in in sixth place, and clocked 48.04sec after he was thrown about by the wash of those ahead of him.



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