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May 22, 2024
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Australian Olympic Gold Medalist Mack Horton Retires From Competitive Swimming

Australian Olympic gold medalist Mack Horton is ending his 17-year career in competitive swimming to begin a new job at an advertising firm in Sydney on Monday.

The 27-year-old Horton said he was planning on pursuing a third Olympics in Paris this summer until last year’s Australian Trials, where he missed the World Championships team in the 400-meter freestyle (3:46.71) by more than three seconds behind Elijah Winnington (3:43.48) and Sam Short (3:43.38).

“Usually when I am not satisfied with a swim, I’ll touch the wall and there is clarity – ‘This is what I need to fix, this is what I need to do’ – and I’m really motivated to do it,” Horton told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I touched the wall and for the first time ever, I had none of that. I had done everything that anyone has ever asked of me. I had tried as hard as I can and I just didn’t know if I could go faster.

“Up until that moment I believed my best would still beat the best in the world. And then it just kind of clicked. I’m an all-in kind of guy and I can’t level down that belief. There is no point doing it if I don’t believe my best is going to win. That is all I know.”

Since last year’s Australian Trials, Horton reduced his training load form his usual two-a-day schedule to three or four sessions per week at Griffith University under coach Michael Bohl. Two weeks ago, he informed Bohl of his decision to retire.

Horton’s career highlight came at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where he captured a gold medal in the 400 free with a personal-best 3:41.55 at 20 years old.

At the 2019 World Championships, he staged a silent protest by refusing to share the 400 free podium with four-time defending champion Sun Yang, whom Horton had called a “drug cheat” at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Yang was later dealt a four-year ban for allegedly interfering with an attempted drug test, which is keeping him out of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

When asked whether athletes should have more faith in anti-doping controls today compared to 2016, Horton said, “I’d like to think so, but I just don’t know. I’m sure there is science we don’t even know about. Everyone is always looking for an edge.”

Along with his silver in the 400 free from 2019, Horton also won Worlds medals in the 800 free (bronze in 2015), 1500 free (bronze in 2019), 4×200 free relay (gold in 2021, silver in 2022), and 400 free (silver in 2021). At the Commonwealth Games, he captured eight medals in total, including an individual title in the 400 free in 2018.

“When I think back to when I was younger and how I wanted to end my career, I always wanted to love swimming at the end,” Horton said. “I still love swimming. You never feel bad after a swim. You always feel better, you feel cleaner and fresher, the mind feels better. It’s the perfect way to start the day.”

Last September, Horton married high school sweetheart Ella Walter, a neonatal intensive care nurse.

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