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Olympic swimming champion Mack Horton embracing pressure and expectation as he heads towards Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

by ZwemZa on October 7th, 2017
Olympic champion Mack Horton with his silver medal from the 400m freestyle and bronze from the 1500m at this year's world championships in Budapest. Picture: Supplied.

Olympic champion Mack Horton with his silver medal from the 400m freestyle and bronze from the 1500m at this year’s world championships in Budapest. Picture: Supplied.

Olympic champion Mack Horton is inviting the one thing that in recent years has brought Australian swimmers on the big stage undone — pressure.

Horton says he is embracing any expectation that comes with winning 400m freestyle gold in Rio last year as he builds towards the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.

“Now I’m maybe the hunted rather than the hunter which makes things a bit interesting,” he said.

“It puts a bit more pressure on without me realising it, but I kind of like the pressure, it’s fun in training knowing that people are chasing you.”

His career changed forever after Rio but life quickly returned to normal.

“What is normal though? There’s nothing normal about waking up before 5am every day,” he said.

“Day to day training and living at home it’s all exactly the same, it’s just if I walk down the street that could be a bit different.

“The thing that has helped me the most is everything in my life is so stable — family life and I’ve had the same coach Craig Jackson for nine or 10 years, everything remains the same and that makes it a lot easier.”

Horton after winning 400m freestyle gold in Rio last year. Picture: AFP Photo / Martin Bureau

Horton followed his Olympic success with silver in the 400m freestyle and bronze in the 1500m at the Budapest world championships this year.

After the worlds he had four weeks off and just “chilled out” but is now preparing to head to Adelaide this month for the national short course championships.

“Last year I did Europe and that was a big trip so this year I went down to Tasmania and did a bit of a road trip, some hiking, skiing in the Victorian High Country,” he said.

As part of his preparation he spent three weeks living in an altitude house at Victoria University in Footscray where conditions simulate being at 3000m above sea level.

When Horton spoke to The Advertiser he only had two days of the altitude camp to go after spending every minute outside of training in the altitude house with two teammates.

“We’re getting pretty sick of each other,” said Horton, who had to pause between sentences to catch his breath.

“I’m going very crazy, we had to get 300 hours so I’ve been doing 17-hour blocks a day in the unit, so I’m ready to get out now.

“And it’s the other side of Melbourne to where I live, if it was closer I could just pop home and get food or whatever but it’s a 40-minute trip one-way so it’s been difficult.”

It’s all about determining whether altitude training will work for Horton leading into a major championships.

“I’ve had a couple of failed attempts at altitude, either getting sick or things not going right,” he said.

“So we wanted to have a crack at it and see if it does work for me.

“We did blood tests going in before altitude and then we’ll do follow up tests to see the improvement through that, if there is one, and hopefully I should see gains in training as well.

“There’s been lots of tiredness, you’re tired pretty much all the time because you don’t get the quality of sleep that you get at normal altitude.

“And you don’t recover as well, but that’s why we wanted to try it now at the start of the season and see if it’s something we can work on.”

Horton during heats of the 1500m freestyle at this year’s world championships. Picture: Francois-Xavier Marit (AFP).

When Horton won bronze behind Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri and Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk in the 1500m final at Budapest in July, it was the first time an Australian had been on the podium of the event at international level since Grant Hackett in 2008.

“I had a better balance between the 400m and 1500m this year and it’s something I’ve struggled to get right before,” Horton said.

“I’ve either been really good at the 400 or the 1500m but never had the balance quite right — but the times were still average.

“I want to keep juggling them, I’ve thought about it (choosing one or the other) but it’s tough because I love both events and it’s hard to make the decision.

“But as I get older it’s something I’ll need to think about more and more.”

Horton doesn’t know what he will race at the short course championships in Adelaide yet but says it’s a stepping stone towards the Comm Games trials in March and Games itself in April.

“It could be the 100m breast or the 1500m freestyle,” he said.

“I don’t really know what I’m swimming yet, I’ll go to reconnect with the team and we have the swimming gala the following night.

“This time of year I tend to take it fairly slow getting back into training and racing, so I’m training now but won’t be in racing condition.

“There are five weeks between trials and Comm Games so it’s a faster turnaround than normal.

“I’m probably going to be in the position at trials where I do what I need to do to be on the team, then be at peak performance for Comm Games.”

The national short course swimming championships will be held at the SA Aquatic and Leisure Centre from October 26-28.

Reece Homfray | The Advertiser

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