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Mack Horton, Olympic gold medalist from Australia, retires from swimming

Mack Horton, an Australian Olympic gold medalist who had a rivalry with China’s Sun Yang, announced his retirement from international swimming at age 27.

“I dearly wanted to swim in Paris, but the hunger wasn’t there,” Horton said, according to Swimming Australia. “I always want to give my all, and I am not someone who just wants to make up the numbers, so this is the right time to step away.”

Horton won the 400m freestyle on the opening night of competition at the 2016 Rio Games after the Australian men’s swimmers didn’t win any gold medals in 2008 and 2012.

Before that final, Horton called Sun, the 2012 gold medalist in the 400m free, a “drug cheat.” Sun had been suspended three months in 2014 for a banned stimulant, though the punishment wasn’t announced by Chinese officials until after he served the time.

Horton then defeated Sun by 13 hundredths of a second in the Olympic final.

Horton then took silver behind Sun at the world championships in 2017 and 2019.

In 2019, Horton refused to stand on the podium for the Chinese anthem and appeared not to shake Sun’s hand. He stood a step away from Sun and bronze medalist Gabriele Detti of Italy for customary post-medal ceremony photos.

At the time, Sun was competing ahead of a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing over an accusation of having a vial of his own blood destroyed during a drug test the previous year.

Sun was ultimately suspended in 2020 for more than four years, a ban that runs into this May. Sun, now 32, will not be able to qualify for the Chinese team for Paris, according to selection procedures published by the nation’s swimming federation last month.

In 2021, Horton finished third in the 400m free at the Australian Olympic Trials, missing the team by one spot. Horton later made the Australian 4x200m free relay pool and earned a bronze medal in Tokyo as a prelim swimmer.