Mack Horton Faces The Race Of His Life In Tonight’s 400m Freestyle Final At The Australian Olympic Trials

2021 OLY TRIALS Session 1 Mack Horton action
RACE OF HIS LIFE: Rio Olympic champion Mack Horton has given himself every chance of going to Tokyo - but time will tell. Photo Courtesy Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Mack Horton Faces The Race Of His Life In 400m Freestyle Final At The Australian Olympic Trials

Defending Olympic champion Mack Horton (Melbourne Vicentre) has put himself in the game, qualifying fourth fastest into what will be a gripping 400m freestyle final on the opening night’s finals of the Australian Olympic Swimming Trials in Adelaide.

But the 25-year-old Rio gold medallist will have to produce the swim of his life if he is any chance of defending his crown in Tokyo.

2021 OLY TRIALS Session 1 Jack McLoughlin

LAUNCH PAD TO TOKYO: Jack McLoughlin (Chandler) takes off in today’s 400m freestyle heats. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

Horton is up against a red-hot field which includes his 2016 Olympic team mate Jack McLoughlin (Chandler, QLD) and fellow Queensland youngsters, fastest qualifier Elijah Winnington (St Peters Western) and exciting Rackley pair Thomas Neill and Sam Short – who both swam personal best times in the heats.

And Horton (3:47.05) will have to go 1-2 and under the qualifying time of 3:46.34 – already achieved by fastest qualifier Winnington (3:45.07), Neill (3:45.28) and McLoughlin (3:45.58) in an impressive show of depth by the Australians this morning.

Horton has struggled to find any mid season form before being forced to relocate from Victoria to the Gold Coast for the final two weeks of his preparation – and today’s swim was by far his best of the season.

Covid 19 forced Horton and 20 fellow Victorian swimmers from Melbourne Vicentre and Nunawading to make a frantic exit on a late night flight out of Melbourne to escape the quickly imposed lockdown which only re-opened late this week.

Horton finished on over the final 50m of the opening heat in 3:47.05 to finish second to Rio team mate McLoughlin who took control of the heat from the outset winning comfortably in 3:45.58 with emerging young gun Sam Short (Rackley, QLD) giving a good sight in a pb of 3:47.24.

2021 OLY TRIALS Session 1 Mitch Tinsley (left) and Elijah Winnington

FIST FULL: Fastest qualifier Elijah Winnington (black cap) from St Peters Western with sixth fastest qualifier Mitchell Tinsley Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

But in the very next heat Neill, the Fina Junior World Championship medallist over 400, 800 and 1500m locked horns with Winnington to set a faster pace than heat one – Winnington, who made the move to coach Dean Boxall this season – an impressive fastest qualifier, overtaking Neill on the third hundred.

And what a memorable Olympic Trials debut for Australian Age and National Surf Life Saving star Sam Short – who drew the lane next to Horton and raced him every lap to seal a place in what will be a memorable final.

Men’s 400m freestyle Top 8 Qualifiers

1 Elijah Winnington 3:45.07 (1:50.38)

2 Tommy Neill 3:45.28 (1:50.24)

3 Jack McLoughlin 3:45.58 (1:51.28)

4 Mack Horton 3:47.05 (1:52.16)

5 Sam Short 3:47.24 (1:52.25)

6 Mitchell Tinsley 3:48.59 (1.51.35)

7 Adam Sudlow 3:52.32 (1:55.99)

8  Silas Harris 3:53.24 (1:56.44)

Footnote: Wesley Roberts (Cooks Islands Visitor) clocked 3:52.50 (1:54.60) in the heats but as a visitor is not qualified to swim the final.