You can’t buy class. You either have it or you don’t.
Australian Olympic gold medallist swimmer Matt Horton shows he has it in spades.
China’s top swimmer Sun Yang has now been officially found to be a drug cheat and handed an eight–year ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, effectively ending his career.
The World Anti–Doping Agency has welcomed the ruling as a ‘significant’ result.
Yet, it’s Horton who is now receiving more death threats and being trolled on social media, just like he was following his podium protest against Sun Yang at the FINA Swimming World Championships in South Korea.
Horton isn’t after the last laugh. In fact, this is a young Australian champion who says he is still chasing the dream of more Olympic success and has never been afraid to stand up for what he believes in.
Responding to Sun Yang’s suspension Horton suggests the continuing campaign against doping cheats in professional sport is still ongoing.
The 23-year old’s focus has always been about ‘clean sport.’ En route to early morning training he told waiting media, “I think regardless of the outcome, it was always going to be a statement to the world and my stance has always been about clean sport, never about nations or individuals,” he said.
His Melbourne alma mater, Caulfield Grammar, should take a leaf out of his book.
Caulfield Grammar ditched the plan to name its $25 million state-of-the-art aquatic centre after its Olympic Gold Medallist graduate to preserve the school’s commercial interests in China.
It apparently ditched the plan in response to the very public international fallout from Horton’s refusal to share a medals dais at the World Championships last year.
Before Horton’s decision to snub Sun Yang, sources say that the school intended to name the pool in his honour.
Naturally, the school denied it had anything to do with Horton’s snubbing of Sun Yang. Really?
Australians are not stupid.
The feud between Horton and Yang can be traced back four years ago to the Rio Olympics where Horton called his rival a drug cheat ahead of their Olympic showdown in the 400m freestyle.
Horton won Olympic Gold but then at the FINA world championships, he came runner up to Sun Yang in the same race and refused to share the podium with him, again calling him a drug cheat.
Athletes were angry, but more so about the fact Sun Yang won the race while competing under the shadow of an appeal for smashing vials containing his blood samples taken at an out-of-competition test in September 2018.
Smashing vials of blood is not a normal reaction to a routine testing for any athlete in any sport.
After last year’s furore, it seems to have been conveniently forgotten that Horton, his girlfriend and his family were subjected to vitriolic abuse. His family home was vandalised and Coca–Cola withdrew a potential sponsorship deal.
The fact that Caulfield Grammar is heavily reliant on good relations with China is not Horton’s problem — it is the school’s problem.
Caulfield Grammar was the first Australian school to open a campus in mainland China. For the last 20 years groups of Year 9 students have been sent to its Nanjing boarding facility for a language and cultural immersion program.
There is nothing wrong with programs such as these. But what is wrong is conveniently ignoring and excusing away facts for not wanting to offend.
Anyone remember the old saying, there is no such thing as a free lunch?
So, worst-case scenario, China completely pulls out of Caulfield Grammar and severs its 20–year relationship.
The irony is not lost on any of the parents currently paying the fees that Caulfield’s fees are still just as expensive as other independent private schools across the nation who chose not to go down this path seeking Chinese investment for their private school.
Australia has to become a lot smarter in so many areas.
Nothing raises the ire of the normal Australian more than seeing us kowtowing to another nation in a cultural cringe.
Imagine if Horton now went on the vitriolic tirade that Sun Yang and supporters went on against him? He has already shown he has too much class for that and will simply let his Olympic achievements continue to do the talking.
Apparently, Caulfield Grammar may now revive its original plans to rename its aquatic centre.
So, now we have an Australian school, which disrespected its first-ever Olympic champion to protect its commercial interests. But when the worm turned, it now wants to cash in on his name to try and save its own reputation. How sickeningly magnanimous of them.
It will be interesting to see the school’s next step. Will it make an honest and sincere apology to one of its finest graduates? Or will it simply hire a well-paid PR company to issue a grovelling semi-apology cloaked in the typically politically correct language to try and minimise any damage?
Australians aren’t that stupid.
Swimmers who have raced against Sun Yang and lost will never truly know what could have been. They have welcomed the court’s decision with a tinge of ‘what if?’
Standing up for what you believe in takes courage. Matt Horton has always backed himself. It’s a shame Australia doesn’t back itself and its true champions more often.
Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.