Mack Horton won’t defend 400-meter gold medal in Tokyo


ADELAIDE, Australia — Mack Horton won’t defend his Olympic 400-meter freestyle title in Tokyo after failing to make the Australian team for the event.

Horton finished third in the final on the first night of the Australian selection trials on Saturday. Only the top two — Elijah Winnington and Jack McLoughlin — gained selection for the Tokyo games beginning July 23.

The opening night of the trials featured Australian records for Emma McKeon in the 100-meter butterfly and Brendon Smith in the 400-meter individual medley.

Winnington won in 3 minutes, 42.65 seconds, ahead of McLoughlin (3:43.27). Horton, who clocked 3:43.92, can still earn selection in the 200-meter freestyle to be contested Sunday.

Earlier, McKeon broke her own national 100-meter butterfly record and was on a world-record pace until fading in the last five meters. McKeon, who could race as many as eight events in Tokyo, won in 55.93 seconds, bettering her previous Australian record of 56.18.

McKeon won four medals — gold and two silvers in relays and a bronze in the 200 freestyle — at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

At Tokyo, the medal races will be held in the morning with heats at night.

But Australia’s selection trials have switched that around to the traditional morning heats and night finals, after all previous domestic meets this year raced to the Tokyo schedule.

“It’s a bit of a switch of mindset again,” McKeon said. “All year we have been doing morning finals but it (night finals) is what I have been doing my whole life, so I am used to it.”

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