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

Reports of a splashing incident involving Mack Horton, who is London Games medallist’s 400m free competitor, draws flurry of anger from mainland Chinese media and netizens

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 12:24am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 August, 2016, 3:57pm

China’s swimming team has denied reports that its superstar swimmer Sun Yang attempted to disrupt Australian rival Mack Horton by splashing water at him during a practice session this week.

The reports have drawn a flurry of anger among mainland Chinese media and netizens, who branded the reports as a “malicious attack” to “smear” Sun, so he will not perform as well at the Olympics.

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“The reports are not true. Sun Yang and the swimmers from Australia are very good friends,” China’s swimming team manager Xu Qi told the official Xinhua news agency.

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Xu made the remarks after The Age reported that the 1.98-metre Sun tried to disrupt Horton’s session by splashing water at him as the pair came together before they are set to meet in the 400m freestyle.

Chinese media was outraged at the accusations, with one outlet obtaining video footage showing how Sun got along with other Australian swimmers well having casual conversations with each other on a coach.

“The ultimate winner [of the accusations] will be the Australian swimming team,” one report said.

Sun is no stranger to this type of controversy and most recently was cleared of wrongdoing after a similar poolside altercation with a Brazilian female competitor during a warm-up session on the last day of the world championships in Kazan.

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For his part, 20-year-old Horton, who set the benchmark 400m time earlier this year, refused to rise to Sun’s bait and be “lured into any mind games”.

Yang was trying to get his (Horton’s) attention, but he stayed calm,” said Horton’s coach Craig Jackson after the incident.

“Mack is very relaxed and has settled in very well. He’s trained very strongly and we want to make sure the world sees the best of Mack on the night.”

Sun is the favourite to reclaim his 400m and 1500m titles he won in London four years ago.