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Standing Ovation For Mack Horton, But China Is NOT Happy

It started as gentle applause. Before long, it became a roar.

And then the swimmers in the athletes' village dining room at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, rose to their feet, delivering a thunderous standing ovation for Mack Horton.

They were applauding the Aussie's brave stance yesterday, when the 400m freestyle silver medallist refused to take the podium alongside Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, who won the event.

Horton has been feuding with Yang for years. After upsetting him to win the 400m freestyle final at the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Aussie called his rival a "drug cheat" -- a reference to Sun's three-month ban in 2014 for testing positive to the stimulant trimetazidine.

Image: Getty.

READ MORE: Aussie Mack Horton Refuses To Share Podium With Chinese Swimmer

Sun has again been in the news for the wrong reasons this year. He currently faces fresh allegations of violations of doping rules -- over charges of smashing vials of his own blood with a hammer last year after a test.

The 24 year old heads to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in September to defend himself, but many in the swimming community feel he should have missed these championships.

As Horton received a torrent of abuse on social media overnight, former champion swimmer Susie O'Neill was one of many Australians to come out in support of him.

"I really respect Mack for what he did," the dual Olympic gold medallist said on Network 10's 'The Project'.

"It’s tough, you know? But as athletes, we really want to compete in a fair playground. And if you feel like it’s not being policed well enough, then it just gets really, really frustrating for the athletes.

"So, I really commend him for coming out. I’m really passionate about clean sport. I competed in the ‘90s against some people who weren’t clean.

"When I was an athlete, I wasn’t allowed to speak out. We had to keep our mouths shut. I’m really, really passionate about clean sport, about policing the sport to make it clean. I’m all for Mack standing up for that."

Hi Mack! Image: Getty

But in China, the mood is different. Several Chinese media outlets quoted Sun as saying: "You don’t have to respect me, but you have to ­respect China", while The China Daily reported: "His behaviour will make his silver medal less glorious".

Meanwhile, swimming's governing body FINA has also issued a statement, although it stopped short of giving Horton a formal warning.

"While FINA respects the principles of freedom of speech, it has to be conducted in the right context," it said.