Mack’s Attack Not Enough In Epic 400m Freestyle Showdown As Winnington And McLoughlin Turn On Tokyo Turbos

THE WINNER AND HIS HERO: Elijah Winnington consoles Mack Horton after an epic 400m freestyle trial in Adelaide. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

Mack’s Attack Not Enough In Epic 400m Freestyle Showdown As Winnington And McLoughlin Turn On Tokyo Turbos

Australia’s Rio Olympic champion Mack Horton (Melbourne Vicentre) won’t get the chance to defend his 400m crown in Tokyo after one of the greatest races in the history of swimming in Australia unfolded in the lanes of the SA Aquatic And leisure Centre in Adelaide tonight.

The 25-year-old Horton certainly gave it his best shot against the hottest domestic field of 400m freestyle swimmers in world swimming.

He hit the lead with 150m to go and even he thought he had it in the bag – but young gun Elijah Winnington (St Peters Western) and Horton’s 26-year-old Rio team mate Jack McLoughlin (Chandler, QLD) had other ideas in an epic showdown of Olympic proportions.

With a blanket covering the first five swimmers, which also included Rackley boy-wonders Tommy Neill and Sam Short, Winnington turned on the turbo chargers down the final 100m with McLoughlin in hot pursuit and Horton desperately trying the hang on.


THANK HEAVENS: A thankful Elijah Winnington off to his first Olympics. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

And with the crowd on its feet and commentators, Olympic silver medallist and world champion James Magnussen and 2008 Olympian Meagen Nay screaming the house down they welcomed home an Olympic debutant in Winnington (3:42.65), and new dual Olympian McLoughlin (3:43.270, from a brave champion in Horton (3:43.92) and the next gen Neill (3:44.51) and Short (3:46.33).

It was heralded by veteran coaches Vince Raleigh (who coaches McLoughlin) and former Australian Olympic head coach and 2021 Tokyo mentor Coach Leigh Nugent as one of the greatest races they’ve ever seen.

Horton may have lost his opportunity to defend the crown he won in Rio but he has certainly not lost his champion qualities – and will be the inspiration behind Winnington and McLoughlin’s two-pronged Aussie attack for Tokyo.

Horton, who like 20 other Victorians was forced out of his training environment and sent to the Gold Coast for the last two weeks because of the Covid lockdown, fronted the media scrum like the true pro he is.

“That’s swimming…..” he said…”And I’ve now got to get ready for the 200m in the morning.”

On the race?

“I was actually comfortable the whole way…(in fact) I thought I had it to be honest.

“I was probably on the wrong side of the pool, breathing the wrong way…I literally gave it everything (I had) and as long as you give it your all that is all that matters.

“And every time you turn at the 300m mark in a 400m race you always question whether you’ve got another 100 in there and of course that was the same tonight.

“But (in the end) there was clearly not another 100 in there.

“I’m very happy for the boys….Jack works his butt off and has been working his butt off for years and Elijah is obviously super talented and coming through..and hopefully they can keep carrying the 400 legacy for Australia……”


EMPTY TANK: Mack Horton may not be off to Tokyo to defend his Olympic title but it wasn’t for a lack of trying. Photo Courtesy:Delly Carr (Swimming Australia).

And asked by one pesky reporter of his chances in the 200m tomorrow, he turned with a wry smile and answered politely in the Mack Horton way: “OK I think… if I get to cool down quickly…..”

And off he went as Winnington made his way into the media throng, smiling like a “Cheshire cat” but full of praise for Horton.

“I had a little moment with Mack after that race and I pretty much told him he was my hero,” said Winnington.

“I remember being here five years ago at the Rio Trials, watching Mack go 3.41 – a second faster than what I went there (tonight).

“So 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.”

And on the race?

“At the 300 metre mark I could see Sam Short on the other side of Jack and I could see Mack on the other side of Tommy and I was like ‘oh my gosh, there’s five of us right here’. It’s unbelievable,” said Winnington.

“Five in the top eight in the world in Australia, you can’t ask for much more than that in home competitions.”

And what does it mean?

“It means everything to me. I dreamt of this moment as a kid. To see that I touched the wall first and I made the qualifying time, it was pretty special.”

And his improvement?

“The biggest thing is confidence. I have said it before, Dean Boxall (my coach) and that program at St Peters Western is absolutely bled into you is that confidence and I know all these guys are doing incredibly hard work but I reckon I top them all off, that is really what gave me the confidence in that last 100 metres.”

And now for the Games ?

“When I get on the world stage, whether Sun Yang races, Gabriel Detti (ITA), it’s going to be a competition and if you make the team in the 400 in Australia you are very much in contention for an Olympic medal let alone Olympic gold.

I’m going to be doing everything and that’s my focus, I have made the team and now my shift is to improve on that and see what I can do for Australia.”

And he’ll have Mack Horton in his corner.

Results Men’s 400m freestyle QT 3.46.34

1 Elijah Winnington 3:42.65 (1:50.36) QT

2 Jack McLoughlin 3:43.27 (1:50.61) QT

3 Mack Horton 3:43.92 (1:50.83) QT

4 Thomas Neill 3:44.51 (1:50.54) QT

5 Sam Short 3:46.33 (1:51.07) QT

6 Mitchell Tinsley 3:49.61 (1:52.27)

7 Adam Sudlow 3:55.19 (1:55.01)

8 Silas Harris 3:55.27 (1:57.38)