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Rio 2016: Mack Horton always a winner and inspiration for Melbourne supporters


They kept pace with him for each of the 30 lengths it took Mack Horton to complete the 1500m freestyle race at the Rio Games.

They cheered when he first appeared on the giant television screen at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Albert Park. 


Rio 2016: Australia finish swim meet with silver and bronze

Australia has a strong finish in the pool with a silver in the women’s 4×100 medley relay and bronze in the men’s equivalent. Michael Phelps wins his 23rd gold medal. Courtesy of the Seven Network.

They cheered when the starter gun went off and Horton dived into the pool.

They cheered when he finished fifth in a race that many hoped would give the Australian champion another gold. 

Supporters gather at MSAC in Albert Park to watch Mack Horton's medal bid.
Supporters gather at MSAC in Albert Park to watch Mack Horton’s medal bid. Photo: Paul Jeffers

The 20-year-old had earlier won the 400m freestyle.  

Among the supporters at the indoor competition pool watching Sunday’s race was Horton’s younger brother, Chad. 

Before the event had started, the 18-year-old said he hoped his brother would be a winner. But he said that, no matter what, Horton had the determination to keep going. 

After the race, Chad said his family was proud of his brother. “We’ll all be a little bit disappointed, but we’re all still so proud of him,” he said. “It doesn’t matter, win or lose. 

Chad Horton watches his brother at MSAC in Albert Park.
Chad Horton watches his brother at MSAC in Albert Park. Photo: Paul Jeffers

“And I know that he will get back up and keep going in a couple of months.”

He said Horton would be back in Australia, before he goes on a European holiday with his best mate, and winner of the race, Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri. 

Mack Horton has proved an inspiration for Victorian swimmers.
Mack Horton has proved an inspiration for Victorian swimmers. Photo: AP

Chad said, that although his brother had received “a lot of hate” over calling his arch-rival Sun Yang a drug-cheat, it hadn’t affected his performance. 

Swimming Victoria chief executive Jason Hellwig said the 1500m was a “brutal event”.

Former World Championship gold medal winner Linley Frame joins the crowd at MSAC in Albert Park.
Former World Championship gold medal winner Linley Frame joins the crowd at MSAC in Albert Park. Photo: Paul Jeffers

“It’s such a hard event … [Horton] did everything he could today; he swam as well as he can,” Hellwig said .

“We don’t have anything but great pride in what he has done. He has been a great swimmer and a great ambassador for the sport.

“He is only 20; in four years’ time, eight years’ time, he will have another chance.”

Hellwig said that compared with last August, Swimming Victoria’s membership had risen 10 per cent.

“These performances at the very top are really important for young kids, and mums and dads coming through,” Hellwig said.

“Just to see what it looks like at that absolute pointy end.

“For everyone here to feel part of that journey … is important, because everyone here today would know Mack … and they were all cheering for him, so it is wonderful for the whole sport to be part of that.”

Minutes before the race began, young swimmers had been competing at a junior meet at the Albert Park centre. 

Parents, siblings, school mates, coaches and trainers shouted encouragement to participants who may one day be Olympians themselves. 

As the start of Horton’s race drew, everyone stopped. A hush fell over the crowds, only to be interrupted by cheering and applause that didn’t stop, even when the spectators realised their hero had fallen short of a place on the podium. 

Emma Malcolm – who swims in freestyle and butterfly competitions and has qualified for the Open Nationals and the Age Nationals – said Horton, a former Caulfield Grammar student, was an inspiration. 

She said she had often seen Horton around the centre, practising and helping others.

The 17-year-old said she was taking small steps towards her dream of competing at the Olympics. 

Watching her idol made her own goal seem more achievable, she said. 

“It is so impressive just to know that someone who works so hard and has just been there for everyone else is representing our country,” she said.

“It definitely gives you more motivation to work harder. It makes you think, ‘He’s done it; anyone can do it.'”



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