Sun shower: tearful Sun Yang accuses conqueror Mack Horton of dirty tricks after Rio loss

China’s superstar swimmer breaks down after being called a drug cheat and losing by a split second to Aussie rival in 400m freestyle final

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 August, 2016, 11:40am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 August, 2016, 11:17pm

China’s superstar swimmer Sun Yang accused Australian rival Mack Horton of using cheap tricks – labelling Sun a drug cheat – to disrupt his chances as the two clashed before, during and after the 400 metres freestyle final in Rio yesterday.

Defending champion Sun broke down in tears after losing the gold medal by a split second to Horton and the bad blood between the pair continued to flow into the media conference.

Sun’s loss capped a disappointing opening day for China with gold medal favourite Yi Siling also losing her crown in the women’s 10m air rifle.

Horton called Sun a drug cheat as the two clashed in training and repeated the accusation after the race.

“I used the word(s) drug cheat because he was tested positive,” Horton said. “I just have a problem with him testing positive and still competing.”

WATCH: Sun Yang bursts into tears following Rio 400m final loss

The controversial Sun, 24, has a lengthy rap sheet including a three-month doping suspension served secretly in 2014, for taking a banned stimulant that he said was for a heart complaint. It was not revealed by Chinese authorities until after the fact.

Sun insisted he was clean, saying: “I don’t think I need to explain myself any further. I have done what it takes to prove I’m clean ... all athletes should be shown respect.

“On the competition stage, every athlete deserves to be respected and there’s no need to use these sorts of cheap tricks to affect each other.”

Sun Yang outshone by Australian rival Mack Horton in men’s 400m freestyle Olympic final

The 20-year-old Horton, whose mild manner and Harry Potter-style spectacles belie his toughness, said he knew he had put himself on the spot by calling Sun out.

“That last 50 I was kinda thinking about what I said and was like, if he gets me here it’s not going to look great,” Horton said.

“So (I) really didn’t have a choice but to beat him.”

Horton celebrated after the race without even acknowledging Sun and the pair avoided looking at each climbing out of the pool.

Horton clocked 3 minutes, 41.55 seconds to hold off the challenge from Sun (3:41.68), with the bronze going to Italy’s Gabriele Detti (3:43.49).

Hurt feelings for China as they angrily deny swim star Sun Yang disrupted Aussie rival in practice

“Winning and losing are normal for athletes. No one can keep winning. I hope that I would adjust myself properly after this,” Sun said.

“My pace was actually not bad. I knew that (other swimmers) would try to swim fast in the first half to try to get me chasing them.”

Sun has not seen the last of Horton as the two will clash again in the 1,500m freestyle.

Sun is the defending champion from London 2012 and is considered untouchable at the distance.

Tensions between Sun and Horton were running high before the finals.

The Age reported earlier that the 1.98-metre Sun tried to disrupt his Australian rival by splashing water at him at a training session.

China’s swimming team manager Xu Qi has denied the reports, saying that Sun and the Australian swimmers are “very good friends”.

Golden moments on Day 1 at Rio Olympics

The last time China failed to win a gold on opening day was at the 2000 Sydney Games but they recovered to finish third in the final standings with 28.

While Yi could only finish third in her event, teammate Du Li won the silver. Du’s husband, Pang Wei, came third in the men’s 10m air pistol, while Sun Yiwen managed a bronze in the women’s individual epee.

Additional Reporting: AFP