Sun Yang was gracious following his 400m freestyle victory at the world championships on Sunday as he took revenge over Olympic champion Mack Horton.
Sun clocked 3min 41.38sec, finishing 2.47 seconds ahead of second-placed Horton, who had previously dubbed his rival a dope cheat prior to beating the Chinese superstar at the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Italy’s Gabriele Detti took bronze at 2.55sec as Sun dominated the Budapest final, building on his commanding lead at the halfway point.
Horton had taunted Sun again before the Budapest race, saying it was ‘a rivalry between clean athletes and those who tested positive’.
The Australian was referring to Sun’s three-month ban in 2014 for taking a stimulant.
However, Sun enjoyed sweet revenge at the Duna Arena and splashed the water, giving a triumphant roar, when he touched the wall first.
But despite taking revenge after his long-standing war of words with Horton, Sun was gracious towards his rival.
“A long time has passed since Rio, we both got stressed, we both calmed down,” said Sun.
“I made a renewed effort in my training, especially in the last half year.
“I believe in this event, I will keep doing better and better and so will he.”
Sun’s victory in Budapest means he now has eight world gold medals spanning four championships dating back to Shanghai in 2011.
He has now won the 400m world title at each of the last three championships after his Barcelona 2013 and Kazan 2015 triumphs.
Having had to eat humble pie, Horton said his 400m time in the final was more painful than the actual defeat.
“I thought I would have been faster, the time stings more than losing,” said the 21-year-old.
“I thought I was capable of more tonight, I tried to be stronger in the front part of the race.”
Sun could finish with four world golds in Budapest with the 200m, 800m and 1500m freestyle races still to come.
“It’s too early to say,” said Sun, 25, when asked if he was targeting four golds, but said he fears none of his rivals.
“There’s not much about my competitors that I am afraid of – it doesn’t make much sense to be afraid.
“Comps are still comps and we can always meet again next time.
“I am not afraid of losing, if you do, that’s just something you have to deal with.
“I don’t get anxious anymore about the competition, it’s not something you have to take to heart.”
Sun’s winning time was 1.31secs behind Paul Biedermann’s world record — set at the 2009 worlds during the era when the now-banned neoprene suits were used.
The Chinese star said he is working towards lowering the eight-year-old record — one of the few which still stands from that era.
“It is a really long process,” he said.
“It’s all about training step-by-step and keep pursuing myself to get better in the 400m freestyle.
“I keep looking out for new ways to enhance my performance, I am satisfied with my progress.
“I’ll keep doing more training, I think this is the way to break a world record.”
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