Chinese swimming superstar Sun Yang has been accused of antagonizing Australian swimmer Mack Horton while training for the 2016 Rio Olympics. China’s team manager Xu Qi has reportedly denied the reports and claims that the Chinese and Australian swimmers are friends.
“Chinese swimmers respect their opponents and want to make friends with athletes from other countries. They are here to compete in the Olympic Games and realise their dreams,” said Xu Qi. He further referred to the news as “fake.”
The two of them are set to face off in the men’s 400 meter freestyle event. The water-splashing incident was reportedly seen as Sun’s attempt to intimidate the Australian.
Despite the Chinese manager’s denial, Sun’s hot tempered reputation makes the allegations easy to believe. He appears to have been in the headlines more for his antics on dry land, as opposed to his prowess in the water. He had previously served a three-month doping suspension and was also given a six-month suspension due to a traffic violation. He was reportedly caught driving a sports car without a license.
Apart from receiving suspensions, he also made the news after having a very public altercation with his coach due to a personal matter. This is also not the first time that the Chinese Olympian has been accused of bullying other athletes. Last year, a Brazilian swimmer named Larissa Oliveira accused him of tugging her foot during practice for the world championships in Kazan.
Regardless if the allegations are true or not, it will be Sun’s performance in this month’s games that should take the spotlight. He won gold medals in the 400m and 1500m freestyle events in London 2012 and is expected to be a top contender again in Rio. It is up to the Australian to challenge the defender.