Horton out to silence noisy China fans
Mack Horton threw down the gauntlet to his bitter rival Sun Yang ahead of Sunday night's 400m freestyle final at the world championships after China's fanatical fans caused a delay to his morning heat with their raucous behaviour.
Horton rebounded from his below-par performances at the Australian trials to cruise into the final as the fifth fastest qualifier, less than 1.5 seconds behind Sun, but with plenty of fuel left in the tank for the main event.
"The trials were not a strong reflection of how I have been training, so it was a bit frustrating
what happened at trials," he said.
"I think we have got it sorted now. It felt good."
Horton famously beat Sun for the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics in what he said was a victory for clean swimmers and this time he has a teammate to help him bring down the hot-headed Chinese champion.
Jack McLoughlin, swimming in the lane next to Sun, qualified third fastest overall, after the first attempt to get the heat started was abandoned because Sun's fans wouldn't quieten down.
The Chinese supporters showed more courtesy when the swimmers stepped on the blocks the second time and McLoughlin responded by swimming a personal best to join his teammate in the final.
"I was happy with that and I think I can build on it tonight," McLoughlin said.
"I always swim faster at night so I'm looking forward to it."
Ariarne Titmus produced her best-ever morning swim to qualify second fastest for the women's 400m freestyle final behind Katie Ledecky.
The pair were separated by less than six-tenths of a second and it looks like a race in two with the Tasmanian teenager the only woman seriously capable of challenging the unbeaten American.
"I wanted to take it out hard and bring the girls out with me. I knew I had to win my heat to try to get a good lane tonight, see where the field was and conserve my energy for tonight," Titmus said.
"I am backing myself that I have enough in me to do a really good swim."
Australia clocked the fastest time for Sunday night's women's 4x100m freestyle relay despite being without Emma McKeon and Shayna Jack, who mysteriously quit the team and went home last week.
McKeon skipped the heats to focus on the 100m butterfly, where she qualified second fastest for tonight's semis, but will join Cate Campbell, Bronte Campbell and Brianna Throssell for the final with Madi Wilson dropping out after posting the slowest time in the heat.
Australia's men qualified fourth quickest, giving themselves a shot at picking up a medal, after Kyle Chalmers shaved off his moustache for the good of the team.
No-one's really sure how much his facial grown would have slowed him down but Australia only won their heat by 0.01 seconds so the razor may well have been the difference.
"I just think it's a bit arrogant if I rolled in with a mo," Chalmers said.
"I think it's something that shows a bit of confidence."