Horton claims 800m bronze for Australia
When junior champion Mack Horton first arrived at the world swimming championships in Russia, he was starstruck.
Now the teenager has the sport’s biggest names in his sights for very different reasons after a morale boosting 800m freestyle bronze medal in Kazan.
On a night of redemption for the Australian men, Horton bounced back from bombing in the 400m freestyle to make the 800m podium on world titles debut after challenging superstar Sun Yang of China on day four.
And Australia’s Cameron McEvoy also looked to have overcome an early stumble to qualify fastest for day five’s 100m freestyle final.
McEvoy hit back from his 200m final last placing to emerge as a worthy 100m gold medal favourite for Australia in the absence of dual world champion James Magnussen (shoulder).
His chances only improved after world No.1 ranked Russian Vladimir Morozov was disqualified in the semi-finals for a false start.
Horton staked a claim for day eight’s 1500m freestyle crown after clocking a personal best seven minutes, 44.02 seconds in the 800m final.
At 19, Horton admitted he arrived at the world titles starry-eyed with the likes of the imposing Sun present pool-side.
The controversial Sun – back from a 2014 doping ban – had hoped to become the first person to sweep the freestyle from 200m to 1500m at Kazan.
“It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the whole thing with lots of famous people and hype,” Horton said.
Stage fright led to Horton failing to qualify for the 400m final – won by Sun – on day one despite arriving with the world No.1 ranking.
However, that is no longer a problem after Horton tried to “take the sting out of Sun’s tail” with a barnstorming 800m final start.
Horton was over-run by Sun (7:39.96) and Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri (7:40.81) but said the lessons learned had steeled him to threaten the best in the 1500m – and at the Rio Olympics.
“I think that (400m meltdown) was kind of to do with being at my first major meet – it was a shock to the system,” Horton said.
“I think I have learned a lot bouncing back from that – that will be invaluable next year for the Olympics.”
Sun again looms in the 1500m after claiming his second gold in Kazan.
However, his chances of sweeping the freestyle in Russia have already been scuppered by Briton James Guy in the 200m final.
Meanwhile, Pan Pacific champion McEvoy has bounced back from 200m final last placing on day three.
He was also frustrated after being rested for day one’s 4x100m freestyle relay heats, only for Australia to fail to qualify for the final.
Earlier, Emma McKeon finished seventh in a star studded 200m freestyle final won by American Katie Ledecky.
Unlike Sun, Ledecky can make history by sweeping the freestyle in Kazan after collecting her third gold.
HOW AUSSIES FARED IN FINALS ON DAY FOUR OF THE WORLD SWIMMING CHAMPIONSHIPS IN KAZAN, RUSSIA
Men’s 800m freestyle
Bronze – Mack Horton (seven minutes, 44.02 seconds PB)
Women’s 200m freestyle
Seventh – Emma McKeon (one minute, 56.41 seconds)
How Australians fared in day four semi-finals:
Men’s 100m freestyle
– Cameron McEvoy (47.94 seconds) fastest qualifier for final
Women’s 50m backstroke
– Emily Seebohm (27.70) fifth fastest qualifier for final
– Madison Wilson (27.83) sixth fastest qualifier for final
Women’s 200m butterfly
– Brianna Throssell (2:07.57) equal sixth fastest qualifier for final
– Madeline Groves (2:08.00) ninth fastest, misses final
Men’s 200m individual medley
– Thomas Fraser-Holmes (1:58.83) 10th fastest, misses final
Australians in action on day five:
Heats – women’s 100m freestyle (Cate and Bronte Campbell), men’s 200m backstroke (Mitch Larkin), women’s 200m breaststroke (Taylor McKeown), women’s 4x200m freestyle relay.
Finals – men’s 100m freestyle (Cameron McEvoy), women’s 200m butterfly final (Brianna Throssell), women’s 50m backstroke (Emily Seebohm, Madison Wilson), women’s 4x200m freestyle final.