China’s ‘king’ Sun Yang fails to make 1,500m freestyle final due to fever and cold

The Chinese swimming champion clocked more than 15 seconds behind Australian rival Mack Horton in the heat

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 August, 2016, 4:25am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 August, 2016, 1:21pm

China’s superstar swimmer Sun Yang, the reigning Olympic champion and world record-holder, failed to qualify Friday for the 1,500 freestyle final, succumbing to a feverish cold that had bothered him for days.

The 24-year-old clocked 15 minutes 1.97 seconds to finish the qualifier 16th-fastest overall, 17.46 seconds behind top qualifier Gregorio Paltrinieri (14:44.51).

WATCH: golden moments on Day 6 at the Rio Olympics

Australian rival Mack Horton, who had earlier described the Chinese swimmer as a “drug cheat”, swam in the same heat as Sun and finished fourth-fastest overall in a time of 14:48.47.

I’m the king, Sun Yang tells nemesis Mack Horton as China and Australia trade barbs

“I have not recovered yet. I caught a cold and I was feeling terrible,” Sun said afterwards. “When I reached the 800-metre mark my muscles were sore.”

It was an important race for Sun, who had earlier thrown down the gauntlet to Horton by describing himself as the “king” over 1,500 metres.

When asked about Sun not making the finals, Horton said: “It doesn’t really matter if he is there or not to be honest.”

In the end, the Chinese swimmer did not even make it to the final.

“I have heard people saying that I should consider not competing at all [because of my cold]. But I felt that it doesn’t matter if I clocked 16 minutes or 17 minutes, the important thing was that I persevered,” said Sun.

“I did not perform well today. But I should let the past be the past.”

Sun Yang claims 200m freestyle gold title in convincing fashion

Sun broke down in tears after losing to Horton in the 400m race. He seemed to take his defeat in the 1,500m a bit easier.

“I have had happy moments as well as regrets [at the Rio Olympics]. The victory in 200m was a huge breakthrough for me. But the 400m race was a regret. The problem lies in myself. I did not handle the race well,” he said.

Sun’s departure was another blow for China at the Olympic Aquatic Stadium, where they have been unable to reproduce the five-gold haul that saw them second to the US in the swimming medals table in London four years ago.

Sun’s 200m free triumph was their only gold over the first six days of competition.

China’s two silvers include Sun’s runner-up finish to Horton. They also have three bronze, and have swimmers in two of the four individual finals later on Friday.

WATCH: relive the action involving Hong Kong athletes on Day 7 at the Rio Olympics