GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) - Olympic champion Mack Horton ended a 16-year drought for Australia in the men’s 400 metres freestyle at the Commonwealth Games when he won the host nation’s first title in the pool at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre on Thursday.
The 21-year-old had to chase down James Guy and Jack McLoughlin to win the title, pulling ahead in the final 100 metres to edge out compatriot McLoughlin and the Englishman to touch in three minutes, 43.76.
While Horton had been the fastest qualifier, Guy and McLoughlin were swimming under the world record pace set by Germany’s Paul Biedermann in 2009 for the first 200 metres as they duelled in lanes two and three.
Horton sat back, leaving the pair to fatigue and made his move just before the 300-metre mark before he took control of the race when he turned for home.
McLoughlin finished in 3:45.21, with Guy touching 0.11 seconds later.
“He typically goes out hard, he thinks it’s the only way you can swim it so that’s what he does,” Horton said of Guy’s race tactics. “I just did what I had to do.
“If you go out that hard you’re going to be hurting on the back end more than I’m going to be so it’s good fun.”
Horton was the first Australian champion in the race, seen as one of the premier titles on the programme, since retired swimming great Ian Thorpe at Manchester in 2002.
Australia had held a virtual mortgage on the Commonwealth title from 1970 until 2002, winning eight of the nine golds before Scotland’s David Carry (2006) and Canada’s Ryan Cochrane (2010, 2014) broke their stranglehold.
“Just swimming in front of the home crowd is unreal,” Horton told reporters of the noise generated by the passionate home fans as he pulled ahead.
“I probably feel more emotion here than in Rio because the whole crowd is cheering for you. That didn’t happen so much in Rio. Ten thousand people cheering for you is pretty unreal.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly