x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

No splash of emotions for Horton at world junior championships

Tired Australian skipped Barcelona for Dubai meet to learn to handle more than one event and opts to be oblivious to four wins and remain focused, writes Paul Radley.

Mackenzie Horton has won four events so far in Dubai this week, with the 1,500m event yet to come for the Australian. Satish Kumar / The National
Mackenzie Horton has won four events so far in Dubai this week, with the 1,500m event yet to come for the Australian. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // If a sportsman ever struggles to remember just how many gold medals they have won in a week, you might regard them as either ridiculously successful, cocky or just plain ditzy.

In Mackenzie Horton's case, selective amnesia is part of the game plan.

When the Australian freestyler was asked how it felt to pocket a fourth gold at the World Junior Swimming Championships on Wednesday night he first looked puzzled, then sought confirmation.

Four wins, no losses, and his signature event, the 1,500 metres, still to come.

Not so bad, and not so difficult to remember, you might think. But Horton preferred not to be reminded. "I have been trying not to think about it because if you have an emotional high you can follow it with a dip," the Melbourne-based swimmer said.

"It is about staying constant and not thinking about it."

His method is clearly working. Horton took nearly 10 seconds off the previous championship record in the 800m freestyle, to add gold to those he had already earned in the 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay here.

His form has been inspired by the disappointment at having to miss last month's senior championships in Barcelona.

"It pushed me heaps, in training, and I suppose everything happens for a reason," he said.

"I'm gaining more experience here than I would have because in Barcelona I would probably have only raced one event.

"Here, I am learning how to race lots of events over a week and how to maintain my performance."

He said he "wasn't feeling that great" and was surprised to clock seven minutes, 45.67 seconds in the 800m.

"I'm pretty sore from all the other races, so I was pretty amazed when I touched the wall."

In the preceding final, Ruta Meilutyte, the biggest star present at these championships, swam a personal-best time of 54.94 seconds in the girls 100m freestyle final.

The Olympic gold medallist from Lithuania had to make do with silver, though, as she was beaten by Hong Kong's Siobhan Haughey.

"I'm quite nervous as this is my first major competition," Haughey said. "I am really happy with my time and to get to swim with an Olympian."

Meilutyte's time was 0.2 seconds better than her previous best, and has encouraged the breaststroke specialist to consider taking on more freestyle challenges.

"Why not? I think I'm capable of it and it is always nice to do more events," Meilutyte said. "I'm really happy with my time."

In the first final of the evening at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Sports Complex, Kylie Stewart beat her close friend and United States compatriot Kathleen Baker to gold in the 200m backstroke final.

"I was hoping to go a little faster," said Stewart, whose time of 2:09.74 represented a championship best.

"I love racing Kathleen; we always push each other but we are really good friends."

Takaya Yasue of Japan took gold in the other individual final on Wednesday night, before Australia won the new mixed 4x100m freestyle relay event.

pradley@thenational.ae

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