Chinese fans of Sun Yang have taken their hatred of Mack Horton to vile new levels, sending death threats to the Aussie star and his girlfriend.
Sun accused Horton of disrespecting China in a stunning podium protest at the world swimming titles in South Korea on Sunday.
Olympic champion Horton refused to shake hands with Sun or stand on the podium after being relegated to 400m freestyle silver by the controversial Chinese star at Gwangju on an unforgettable opening night of the eight-day titles.
Horton made the bold statement after admitting he was unhappy that Sun had been allowed to compete at the world titles ahead of a Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing in September that may end the Chinese star's career.
The 10-time world champion will answer charges of smashing vials of his blood with a hammer during a clash last year with testers.
Sun - who claimed a fourth straight 400m world title - faces a lifetime ban if found guilty.
Horton copped vile social media abuse while the Chinese swimming team demanded an official apology after he dismissed Sun as a "drug cheat" ahead of the Rio Olympics.
Chinese fans flooded Horton’s Instagram page with vile and disgusting comments on Monday, with some aimed at his girlfriend as well.
He was called a “fat Aussie pig”, “pathetic loser”, “retarded” and “disgusting”, along with violent threats made against him and his family.
Phots of Horton and girlfriend Ella Walter attracted a number of death threats.
Three-time Olympic champion Sun claimed Horton’s protest was an offence to China.
"I was aware that the Australian athlete had dissatisfaction and personal feelings towards me," Sun said via an interpreter.
"But it was unfortunate because disrespecting me is okay but disrespecting China was very unfortunate and I felt sorry about that."
"I'm aware of the rumours (about his alleged hammer attack).
“(But) I think this has been the greatest achievement in history for the Chinese (swimming) team."
Aussies support Horton’s stance
The Australian team's reaction to Horton's stance will no doubt further infuriate Sun with the Dolphins throwing their support behind the 23-year-old.
Head coach Jacco Verhaeren claimed he had no prior knowledge of Horton's protest but had no problem with it.
"That was his idea to do that. But let's put it this way, I understand him very much," he said.
"He has been very strong and vocal about this in the past ... you can only respect him for what he does.
"Mack stands for what he stands for. Nobody can take that away from him, nobody should."
Dolphins team leader Cate Campbell - another vocal critic of Sun in the past - championed Morton's stand.
“I support clean sport and I support swimmers standing up for their beliefs and I think that Mack did an incredible job and we'll take it as a win for Australia," she said.
And somewhat tellingly, a number of other athletes from Australia and the rest of the world threw their support behind Horton.
What an absolute legend, @_mackhorton you will always be the real champ. @fina1908 start protecting the clean athletes and stop allowing this sport to be tarnished by letting this drugs cheat compete. Idiots pic.twitter.com/BGJS0csDe6— Chris Walker-Hebborn (@WalkerHebborn) July 21, 2019