Briton Duncan Scott has reignited an ongoing feud in the world of swimming by refusing to share the podium with controversial Chinese star Sun Yang.
Sun won gold in the 200m freestyle final at the 2019 World Aquatic Championships in South Korea on Tuesday, after race winner Danas Rapsys was disqualified for a false start.
Scott, who won joint-bronze, refused to shake hands or pose for pictures with Sun – only two days after Australian swimmer Mack Horton chose not to share the podium with Sun who he has previously labeled a “drug cheat.”
After Tuesday’s race, Sun reacted angrily, telling Scott: “You loser, I’m a winner.” According to Chinese state media CGTN, Sun had accused Horton of disrespecting China after his protest on Sunday.
Sun is an Olympic medalist and world record holder, but he has also become a controversial figure in swimming.
Sun received a three-month ban after testing positive for a banned substance in 2014, and is facing renewed allegations, according to ABC.
“If [Sun] can’t respect our sport then why should I respect him?,” said Scott, according to the BBC.
“I think a lot of people, everyone in swimming, got behind what Mack did. Hopefully this will happen in more events.”
The competition organizers said they had decided to send warning letters to Scott, Sun, Horton, and Australia’s national governing body, Swimming Australia.
In a statement sent to CNN, Swimming Australia stood by Horton. CNN has reached out to British Swimming for comment.
Fury from Chinese fans
The protests against Sun have lit a fuse among Chinese fans, who have taken to social media to slam both Scott and Horton.
Horton’s Instagram account has been flooded with angry comments – many of them in Chinese – insulting him and his girlfriend.
The incidents have gone viral on Chinese social media, where users slammed Scott and Horton, and praised Yang for standing up for himself.
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“We won’t allow other people to insult us,” wrote one.
Another wrote of Sun: “He was insulted during the race; he was ignored at the podium. He showed what a great nation does, guarding his motherland’s dignity … Being soft spoken can’t curb this kind of trend.”
Sun’s nationalist fans have acted similarly in the past. Before the 400m freestyle race at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Horton said his rival was a “drug cheat.”
Chinese fans hit out at Horton, claiming he had deliberately tried to psych out Sun. Horton’s Instagram page was bombarded with derogatory messages, and an op-ed published by the nationalistic tabloid Global Times described Australia as a country “at the fringes of civilization.”
CNN’s Nanlin Fang contributed to this report.