'It's about time' - Horton breaks Aussie 1500m drought
Australia is back on the podium at world level in the 1500m freestyle for the first time since dual Olympic champion Grant Hackett retired in 2008.
After nine long years, Olympic 400m freestyle champion Mack Horton, broke the drought by winning the bronze medal in Budapest last night.
In the intervening years "Australia's race'' decamped first to China with Sun Yang and more recently to Italy with Gregorio Paltrinieri, who extended his reign into a third year by retaining the title in 14:35.85.
Ukrainian smokey Mykhailo Romanchuk won the silver medal in 14:37.14, having dropped 13 seconds from his best time during the course of the event, while Horton stopped the clock in 14:47.70, about eight seconds down on his best from last year's Olympic trials.
Horton, 21, was somewhat satisfied to break through to the podium but he has made it his mission to bring the 1500m home by winning a major title.
"It's about time,'' he said of his step onto the podium.
"I still have a couple of steps to climb up. I still need to get on that higher one, but it's definitely good to have an Australian back there. That's why I do the event really.''
However Olympic 400m freestyle champion Horton is not wholly satisfied with his week in which he won silver in the 400m and bronze in the 1500m, more because his times were significantly outside his best.
"My times have been average this week but it's the start of the Olympic cycle and I think it's probably been a better balanced week between the 400 and 1500, with the 200 in there as well.
"So we are getting the balance right. We just need to make everything faster and we have three years to do that.''
Horton hit the required peak on the first night in Rio in the 400m but faded at the back end of his Olympic campaign to finish 5th in the 1500m.
"That was probably the biggest thing I learned in Rio and I've really fixed that up this time around, but it's also the balance between the stroke for the 400m and the 1500m, and being able to change between them has been a bit easier this week. I just haven't been fast enough.''
He said he believed his training had been good enough for faster times but he and coach Craig Jackson had deliberatedly dialled back the focus on his skills at this early stage of the Olympiad.
Horton swam in lane one, away from the action of the centre lanes where Paltrinieri and Romanchuk went head-to-head for most of the race, but he led through the first 100m before settling into third place at the 300m mark and holding his position.
"I wanted to take it out a bit harder to put a bit of stress on Greg at the start because he struggles a bit with that speed, but he will just chip away, dig away at you eventually,'' Horton said.
"I think I probably need to back myself a bit more at the start and go even harder. I'm looking forward to training with him for seven months. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can get out of me and what I can get out of him and how far we can take him in our program.''
Paltrinieri will join Horton and Jackson in Melbourne from September for a seven-month training stint which they hope will reap dividends for both of them in future competition.
"You would think we would keep more up our sleeves, but we're pretty open with each other,'' Horton said of his friendly rival.
"As much as I'm looking forward to spending time with him, I'm looking forward to seeing how much we can share with each other as well. He could come and we could train him hard and not really help him but I want to help him and see how far we can push him.''