BUDAPEST: Australia’s Mack Horton and China’s Sun Yang will resume their bad-tempered rivalry in the pool when the swimming section of the world aquatic championships starts on Sunday.
Horton ended Sun’s four-year domination of the 400m freestyle event in spectacular style at last year’s Rio De Janeiro Olympics after branding Sun a ‘drug cheat’ in the build-up.
Sparks are expected to further fly with both also registered to swim over 200m, 800 and 1500m freestyle in Budapest.
“Mack is looking forward to it,” Swimming Australia chief executive Mark Anderson said ahead of Sunday’s opening 400m showdown.
“He’s in good form. Not only in the 400m but the 1500m. There will be great entertainment in both of those races and the swimming world will be watching with interest,” added Anderson with a large dose of understatement.
The 800m freestyle will be an especially intriguing battle with Italy’s long-distance expert Gregorio Paltrinieri also in the mix.
Horton and Sun will be battling to be the fastest from Sunday morning’s 400m heats into the evening’s final and their grudge ‘War in the Water’ rematch will take star billing at Budapest’s Duna Arena.
Hosszu’s iron grip
Hungary’s ‘Iron Lady’ Katinka Hosszu will be out to maintain her grip on the 200m and 400m individual medley events she has dominated in recent years.
Hosszu has entered six individual events, including the 100m backstroke — one of three events in which she won Olympic gold last year — in a punishing schedule, but her priority will be defending her 200m and 400m medley crowns.
Expect fireworks over the longer distance after Hosszu took two seconds off the world record over 400m when she struck Olympic gold in Rio last year.
“By (the time of the world championships) I will know each and every little stone of the Duna Arena,” said Hosszu.
“This pool is so beautiful, that it also puts a little pressure on us Hungarians though. It’s up to us, now we all have to swim fast.”
China, third in the medals table in swimming events in 2015 in Kazan, will also look to backstroker Fu Yuanhui to defend her 50m title.
A hilarious video went viral of Fu’s reaction after discovering she had won joint bronze over 100m at the Rio Olympics and the 21-year-old will be hoping for more goofy smiles in Budapest.
The USA, a powerhouse in the pool, will bring a young team — with an average age of 22 — shorn of stars Michael Phelps, who has retired again, and Missy Franklin, who sits out Budapest after surgery on both shoulders last year.
Teenagers Regan Smith, 15, and 17-year-olds Robert Finke and Dakota Luther will race in the backstroke, freestyle and butterfly respectively.
Ledecky, Peaty eye more records
Katie Ledecky, the Stars and Stripes’ gold-medal and record-breaking machine, will be the star attraction in Sunday’s 400m freestyle women’s heats and finals.
Such is Ledecky’s form that she raced her male counterparts — including 2012 Olympic champion Nathan Adrian — during the American pre-Budapest camp.
“She was racing the guys in training camp, and they were doing all they could not to lose. It was nuts,” team-mate Lilly King revealed. “They were the Olympic freestylers. It was crazy.”
Expect Ledecky to challenge her own 400m, 800 and 1500m freestyle world records in Budapest.
Britain’s Adam Peaty looks to be a shoo-in for the 50m and 100m breaststroke titles — and also wants to lower his own world records in both events.
“I’m half a second quicker if not more than Rio. I want to go and get my titles again, push down on the world records. It’s all achievable,” Peaty told news.oc.uk.
Peaty is threatening to be the first under the 57 seconds barrier over 100m with South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh pushing him hard.
There promises to be a battle royal in the women’s 100m freestyle with Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom having narrowly missed Cate Campbell’s world record of 52.06secs.
Australia’s Campbell is sitting out Budapest, but her sister Bronte is the reigning world champion.
However, the names to beat are Simone Manuel of the USA and Canada’s Penny Oleksiak, who tied for gold in Rio last year.