RIO DE JANEIRO • Even before the Rio Olympics officially begin, swimming's enfant terrible Sun Yang courted controversy with claims the Chinese giant tried to intimidate Australian rival Mack Horton during training.
Olympic champion Sun was said to have splashed water at Horton during a practice session, just days before they face off in the men's 400 metres freestyle.
According to Australia's Fairfax Media, Sun splashed water at Horton and continually tried to distract him in Rio. The 20-year-old Horton reportedly ignored the taunts and "refused to have the focus shifted off his preparations."
Horton's coach Craig Jackson commented: "Sun Yang was trying to get his (Horton's) attention but he stayed calm. Mack is very relaxed and has settled in very well."
The allegation was denied by China's team manager Xu Qi, who told the state-run Xinhua news agency: "It is fake news - Sun Yang and the Australian swimmers are very good friends."
Xu also asked the media to "write about Sun Yang objectively and not to make up stories about him."
"Chinese swimmers respect their opponents and are here to compete in the Olympic Games and realise their dreams," Xu said.
Sun, who won gold in the 400m and 1,500m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics to become his country's first male Olympic swimming champion, will be among the favourites to win those events again in Rio.