Gwangju, South Korea: British bronze medallist Duncan Scott refused to shake hands with Sun Yang on the podium on Tuesday after the controversial Chinese swimmer’s victory in the 200 metres freestyle at the world championships in Gwangju.
American Katie Ledecky pulled out of the women’s 1,500m freestyle final on “medical grounds”. Ledecky withdrew from the morning’s 200m free heats in Gwangju and was assessed by doctors before deciding to also skip the 1,500m final later on Tuesday — an event she has crushed at the last three world championships.
Sun, who is swimming under a cloud in Gwangju with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) set to hear a doping case against him in September, was handed the win when Lithuanian Danas Rapsys was disqualified for a false start.
Scott congratulated silver medallist Katsuhiro Matsumoto of Japan and Russian Martin Malyutin, who finished in the same time as the Briton, but completely blanked Sun on the podium.
The Chinese swimmer reacted angrily, shouting and gesturing at Scott, who also refused to take part in a group photo on the podium and kept his distance from Sun as they left the stage.
The incident comes two days after Australian Mack Horton refused to share the podium with Sun after the 400.
Sun, who served a doping ban in 2014 and was labelled a “drug cheat” by Horton before the Rio Olympics final, got the green light to compete in Gwangju after being cleared by a FINA panel of breaching the governing body’s rules earlier this year.
However, the World Anti-Doping Agency is seeking to overturn the decision at CAS, leaving Sun’s career hanging in the balance a year out from the Tokyo Olympics Sun, who also won gold in the 200 in 2017, touched in a time of 1:44.93, with Matsumoto 0.29 behind in second and Malyutin and Scott taking bronze, 0.70 off Sun’s time.
“My victory was because of my hard work. I continued to keep fighting, I didn’t give up when I was in second place,” said Sun, who won the 400 title on Sunday.
“I was the only one to enter the 800 [heats] this morning, so I was very tired. I just slept for an hour and a half this afternoon.”
RIGHT TO A VOICE
The crowd at the Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center jeered the decision to disqualify Rapsys, who seemed to twitch on the starting blocks. The Lithuanian did not stop for questions after the race.
There was a mixed reaction to Scott’s behaviour on the podium, with Chinese fans shouting and jeering while others cheered him as he left the pool deck.
Scott gave only a brief response to reporters when asked about the podium incident.
“You do quite a job of making sure everyone continues to know about it and so I guess that’s all I have got to say about it,” he said.
His teammate Adam Peaty, who swam in the 50 breaststroke semi-finals, said Scott was “completely right” to take action on the podium, adding that Sun should consider his place in swimming.
“He should be asking himself now should he really be in sport when the people were booing him, but I know how they are and I know how he is so ...
“I mean, if I was swimming [the 400] I wouldn’t have gone on the podium like Mack.”
Peaty, who has previously criticised Sun and the decision to allow him to compete in Gwangju with the doping case hanging over him, said athletes had a right to speak out.
“I think the most important thing as a sportsperson is you have the right to a voice and Duncan showed his voice and so did the crowd,” he added.
“So it’s completely fair that whatever is going on behind the scenes now is obviously not going right because if the fans aren’t wanting him [Sun] I don’t even know why he’s here.”