Horton backed up his gold medal in Rio with the same result on the Gold Coast. (AAP: Dave Hunt)
Cool and impervious to pressure, Mack Horton put expectations to one side to get Australia off the mark in the Commonwealth Games’ gold medal column, racing the way he wanted.
Many accolades were on offer for the Olympic champion: a win on home soil, and the chance to become the first since Ian Thorpe — way back in 2002 — to win Commonwealth Games gold for Australia in the event.
But with a cool head, and no intention to spend his afterburners in the early stages, Horton produced a clinic of control to best English rival James Guy and fellow Australian Jack McLaughlin.
“Whenever I race I want to feel like I’m in control and part of that is telling yourself you’re in control and I felt like I was in control that whole race,” he said.
Horton started slow as Jack McLaughlin flew out first, before England’s James Guy took over with a big lead at the first turn.
Guy and McLaughlin duked it out over the first 200 metres. All the while Horton made up ground to tighten the chase as a front two gradually became a three-way tussle.
Before the 300m mark, Horton had overtaken his compatriot, before accelerating mercilessly past Guy.
On the turn for the final 50 he was half a length in front. This was the procession the crowd had anticipated. That half-length would not be forfeited, with Horton powering home.
“He’s always out quick so I knew I had to mow him down in that last 200,” Horton said of chasing down Guy.
“Moving forward in that first 200m as well I had to make up a bit of pace. I was still a bit soft and slow and probably not much more to give in that first 200, that’s where I needed to make that shift.”
Horton says Guy always goes too hard too early
Somewhat sceptical of his rival’s approach to the 400m, Horton said Guy’s all-guns-blazing tactic in the first half of the race would always leave the door open for his own tactic of accelerating late on.
“Yeah, he typically goes out hard, he thinks it’s the only way you can swim it so that’s what he does,” Horton said.
“I just did what I had to do. If you go out that hard you’re going to be hurting on the back end more than I’m going to be so it’s good fun.”
The cool customer, who can now be used in the same sentence as Thorpe after breaking Australia’s Commonwealth drought in the event, was modest when asked about the swimming great watching on.
“He was probably saying I was a bit too soft, up in the commentary box. I’ll probably pick his brain a bit after the race,” Horton said.