Gold medal winner Mack Horton has been the victim of vicious online trolls who've showered him with abuse, including death threats.
Hours after Horton won the first Gold medal for Australia in men's 400 metres freestyle final, supporters of his Chinese competitor and runner up Sun Yang unleashed on social media.
Horton shared a picture of himself on the podium, which generated over 433 thousand comments, most of them demanding he apologise for comments made earlier about Yang.
Prior to the final, Yang was seen splashing Horton in the training pool. At the time Horton said Yang ‘splashed me to say hello, and I didn't respond because I don't have time for drug cheats’.
'He wasn't too happy about that so he kept splashing me and I just got in and did my thing,' said Horton.
Yang served a three-month suspension in 2014 after testing positive to a banned substance.
After the race, 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.’
However, Fairfax Media reports Horton’s comments were part of ‘a deliberate ploy to get in the head of his main rival.’
In response, Yang said: ‘I don't care too much what the Australian athlete says ... I'm clean; I've done everything it takes to prove I'm clean.’
Yang might not care but his supporters certainly do, starting the hashtag #apologizetosunyan.
‘You even won the match, but you are still a loser, you don't deserve to have an Olympic gold medal,' wrote one person on Instagram.
Another wrote: 'You are too complacent and will die quickly.' Others have spammed the champion’s account with snake emojis.
Following the abuse, the comments on all Horton’s photos have since been deleted, possibly as a result of Instagram’s new filter that blocks aggressive comments.