Chinese netizens bash Australia over swimming spat
China's Internet is overflowing with anger and patriotism after Australian swimmer Mack Horton hurled insults at his Chinese rival Sun Yang ahead of the 400-meter freestyle final at the Rio Olympics on Saturday. [Special coverage]
Web users in China have also accused Australian media of stirring up emotions with biased reports.
Horton won gold in the men's 400-meter freestyle just ahead of rival Sun Yang after taunting Sun by calling him a "drug cheat," the Daily Mail reported. Afterward, social media platforms, both Chinese and Western, were deluged with enraged posts, some expressing violent emotions.
On Horton's Instagram account, Chinese netizens demanded an apology for his "arrogance and unfounded slander." Some called him a racist.
After winning the gold, Horton said Sunday that he would not withdraw his comments. Horton said "I used the word 'drug cheat' because he tested positive," Horton told reporters. "I just have a problem with him testing positive and still competing," the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
In 2014, Sun was suspended from competition for three months by the China Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA) for testing positive for the banned substance trimetazidine, used to treat angina. His suspension ended before he competed in that year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, where he won three golds.
Sun responded to Horton that "on the Olympics' competition stage, every athlete deserves to be respected and there's no need to use these cheap tricks to affect each other."
In 2013, six swimmers on the Australian team were sanctioned for use of a sedative, Stilnox, ahead of the London 2012 Olympics. The drug had been banned by the Australian Olympic Committee some months before, and the six were warned that further breaches would see them ruled ineligible for selection for Rio, ABC news reported.
Chinese netizens' fury is not because Horton beat Sun, but because of his arrogant comments beforehand, said experts.
He Lingnan, deputy chief of the big data and communications lab at Sun Yat-sen University in South China's Guangdong Province, told the Global Times on Sunday that the Australian media reports typify foreign media prejudice against China.
"Recently, Chinese fans and people are becoming increasingly confident and broad-minded about the results in the different competitions," He said, rejecting articles from Australian media that claim Chinese were furious because of Sun's defeat.
"Chinese shooters lost out on gold medals on the first day [of the Games], but Chinese fans were all very understanding and acknowledged their efforts. The source of Chinese netizens' anger is Horton's groundless comments and the irresponsible Australian media reports, rather than the result," He said.
Apart from Horton's comments, Channel 7, an Australian TV station, cut from the Chinese national team's entry into the stadium during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony to show an advert for MacDonald's during the live telecast on Friday, to much criticism from the legions of Chinese people living in Australia.
Additionally, Chinese netizens found that Channel 7 even used the wrong flag for China when it showed the medal tally on TV, Aozhou Honglingjin (the Red Scarves of Australia), a WeChat news account which serves local Chinese citizens and overseas Chinese students in Australia, reported.
He stressed that "all of these frictions between foreign media and Chinese people are based on the lack of mutual respect and understanding."
Sun was seen sobbing on the shoulders of a Chinese reporter after the 400-meter freestyle final.
"I feel sorry that I have failed both my coach and my parents," Sun told media.