Rio Olympics 2016: Chinese journalists explain why Mack Horton is public enemy number one

Australian Mack Horton, left, and China's Sun Yang are engaged in an Olympic feud. Photo / AP
Australian Mack Horton, left, and China's Sun Yang are engaged in an Olympic feud. Photo / AP

Three young female Chinese journalists had just finished getting selfies with 100m backstroke swimmer Jiayu Xu but their smiles quickly vanished when asked about Aussie Mack Horton labelling national hero Sun Yang a "drug cheat".

"The people are angry," said one.

"Very angry," said another.

"Yes," said the third. "Very angry, because the boy is clean. The mistake is not made by himself, but by the association. China Swimming Association made a mistake to not renew the list so Sun Yang did not know there is something bad inside his medicine.

"Every year WADA renew the list, so every year China Swimming must renew the list. That's their job, but they missed to do it. The athlete has no ability to follow the WADA list by himself. He cannot check it by himself.

"What the boy (Horton) said is fact, but we know the detail inside the fact."

As, apparently so do the majority of people in China. Horton made a lot of friends around the world by speaking up against Sun Yang - and a billion enemies. Depending on who you talk to there are now 30,000 angry messages on his Facebook page, and growing by the hour.

"Most Chinese now read the news by this," one of the journalists says while gesturing to her iPhone. "A website in China today said that the fans of Sun Yang had asked Horton to apologise to our champion because he is great, he's clean and he is a simple, warm-hearted boy.

"I think he should apologise, because this is a fantastic party of all of the athletes from all over the world. We come here not only for the competition, but also for peace, for dialogue to make more big communication with each other."

And Horton's dialogue was anything but peacemaking. According to one, it was downright insulting.

"I have no time or respect for drug cheats," she said, quoting him verbatim, then repeating the most offensive word, slowly and with feeling. "Respect ... "

"So what do you think?" asks another, turning the tables. "Do you think what your boy did was right?"

I tell them I believe that it is time for athletes such as Horton to speak up, and that if he believes another swimmer is a cheat, he should have the right.

They mull over this concept.

"He should have the right, hmmm ... but do you think what he say is right? It is a different thing."

We agree to disagree. I ask one for her name to put in my story. She turns her accreditation pass around so I cannot read it.

"I am sorry I cannot show," she says. "I can just tell you that I am working for the largest website in China."

I ask her which one it is.

"I cannot tell you. We have our rules, but what I tell you is from my heart, and also the fact. I promise you."

- news.com.au

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