Melbourne teen Mack Horton clocked his best time yet in the 1500m freestyle to clinch a well-deserved silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in what was his first major international swim at men’s standard.
Before the morning of July 30, only two other Aussies swimmers – namely, Grant Hackett and Kieren Perkins – had ever reached the final individual 1500m event of the Games.
Dubbed the “Clark Kent of the pool”, the short-sighted 18 year old strode confidently up to the starting blocks with his black, thick-rimmed glasses; he replaced them with a set of goggles only in the final moments before his race was signalled to begin.
From the sounding of the siren, he did well to place himself in a comfortable position, second from the front, which allowed him to settle in to his own pace for the next quarter of an hour.
The 1500m freestyle is an event of endurance. His unique technique, involving minimal kicking, begs viewers to contemplate in awe at just how much upper body strength the youth must possess in order to propel himself across the pool at such speeds given the longevity of his event.
He maintained his position close behind Canada’s Ryan Cochrane, eight years Horton’s senior, who took to the lead for the most part of the race. Horton dropped back slightly but only as the Canadian became something of a machine, flying down the pool in a remarkably powerful, final lap sprint to the finish line.
After disappointedly having just missed out on qualifying for the Olympics in 2012, Horton had represented his country in the Junior World Championships earlier this year, placing first and with a personal best of 14:51.55. Now, at his first Commonwealth Games appearance, Horton pushed himself even further to achieving a silver medal for Australia in just 14:48.76 in what was his first major international event against grown men.
Long distance being his forte, Horton’s success is such that he is keeping pace with the times Grant Hackett was forging at his age. Throughout the years, he has been making times just ahead of Hackett’s and his Commonwealth Games performance fell just 0.08 seconds short of Hackett’s best time at age 18.
Since swimmers generally peak during their early 20s, there are high hopes for Horton to soon lower his times to at least 14:34.56 as Hackett had managed by the time he was 20.
With the Rio Olympic Games approaching in two years’ time, Horton is likely to be anticipating the swim of his life and will no doubt have his heart set on surpassing the times of his predecessors. An Olympic gold medal would be but a silver lining to achieving his dream.
Photo courtesy of elitesports