Olympic champion Mack Horton won’t be able to defend his gold medal after finishing third in the final of the men’s 400m freestyle at the Australian swimming trials in Adelaide.
- Rising star Elijah Winnington won the race ahead of Horton and will be going to the Toyko Olympics
- Winnington will be accompanied by second-placed Jack McLoughlin
- Rio Olympic relay gold medalist Emma McKeon also booked her spot for Toyko after breaking the women’s 100m butterfly Australian record
The race was won by rising star Elijah Winnington in 3:42:65 with Jack McLoughlin coming second in 3:43:27 and Horton third in 3:43.92.
In a stunning final race on day one of the trials, the top five finishers all came under the Australian qualifying time, which is based on the 8th fastest time at the last World Championships.
The top three finishers all went under the previous fastest time of the year for the 400m freestyle.
Horton’s form has been down all year, but he looked to be saving his best for when it counted, hitting the front at the 300m mark before Winnington pulled away.
“I literally gave it everything, so it’s like, I mean as long as you give it your all,” Horton said.
“Very happy for the boys. Jack works his arse off, and he’s been working his arse off for years and Elijah’s obviously super talented and coming up through it, so hopefully they can keep creating the 400 legacy for Australia,” Horton said.
Winnington paid tribute to Horton after the race.
“I had a little moment with Mack … and I pretty much told him that he’s my hero.”
“He’s an incredible swimmer and always will be an incredible swimmer so it means a lot that Mack would speak that highly of me.
“It means everything to me, I dreamt of this moment as a kid,” the 21-year-old said.
Winnington will go into the Tokyo Olympics with a strong chance for a medal.
“It’s going to be a competition and I know that if you make it in the team in the 400 in Australia you are very much in contention for an Olympic medal, let alone an Olympic gold,” he said.
“So, I’m going to be doing everything and that’s sort of my focus now I’ve made the team and now my shift is to improve on that and see what I can do for Australia.”
McKeon becomes first Australian swimmer to book ticket to Tokyo
Earlier, Rio Olympic relay gold medalist Emma McKeon broke the Australian record and booked her spot for the Tokyo Olympics by winning the women’s 100m butterfly.
McKeon was on track to beat the world record but tired in the last few metres to fall less than half a second short.
She was the first Australian swimmer to make the Olympic team on night one of the trials.
“Feels pretty good, I think it’s nice just to qualify in the first event kind of on the first night and get that done and now settle into the rest of the week,” McKeon said.
She said she was in career-best form and put that down to the extra year of training after the Olympics were postponed last year.
“It’s significantly faster than what I’ve been going for the last four years,” she said.
“I guess that gives you confidence – this is our last race and practice before Tokyo.”
McKeon’s battle with Cate Campbell in the 100m freestyle promises to be one of the highlights of the six-day trials.
Brianna Throssel came in second but missed Olympic selection by just a one-hundredth of a second.
Brendon Smith qualified for Tokyo and broke the Australian record, winning the men’s 400m individual medley.
Se-Bom Lee came second and also qualified for the Tokyo games.
Zac Stubblety-Cook won the men’s 100m breaststroke final but fell short of the Olympic qualifying time.
“It’s always disappointing just missing that qualifying time,” he said.
Stubblety-Cook will be looking to make amends in the 200m which is his favourite event.
Australia will also be without a competitor in the women’s 400m individual medley.
Jenna Forester won the event ahead of Meg Bailey, but both women fell short of the qualifying time.