Ahmed Hafnaoui is a competitive swimmer that represents Tunisia internationally. He won a gold medal at the 2020 Olympic Games in the 400 freestyle at just the age of 18.
2020 Olympic Games
The day 1 recipient of the Prelims All-Star award was Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui who swam a 3:45.68 400 freestyle to qualify in 8th place for the men’s 400 freestyle final. Tunisia is widely known for its Olympic legend and 2008 1500 freestyle victor Ous Mellouli but this Olympic final-qualifying swim from Hafnaoui was a solid step forward for the country. Hafnaoui became the second Tunisian swimmer to ever qualify for an Olympic final.
Hafnaoui got his hand on the wall during prelims in a 3:45.68 which was just 0.14 seconds quicker than 9th place finisher Antonio Djakovic who hit a 3:45.82 Swiss record. Hafnaoui finished less than a second behind the 4th – 7th place finishers meaning that if he can shave off a bit of time during the second swim, he has the potential to move up. If the field is at their best tonight, however, the podium will likely be slightly out of reach for Hafnaoui as 5 of the top 8 swimmers in the final have now been a 3:44.51 or faster. While Winnington and McLoughlin of Australia both missed the top heading into finals, they will still be competitive for the crown, having swum a 3:42.65 and 3:43.27, respectively, at Olympic Trials.
In finals, swimming out of lane 8, Hafnaoui did it again, not only winning a medal but swimming a perfect race and getting his hand on the wall first, winning a gold medal with a time of 3:43.36.
2021 Short Course World Championships
In his first big international meet following the Tokyo Olympics, Hafnaoui proved that his Olympic gold wasn’t a fluke. After failing to final in the 400 free (3:40.30), he qualified 2nd in the heats of the 1500. In the final, he held his seed, not only earning a silver medal but breaking the African record in the event with a time of 14:10.94.
2023 World Aquatics Championsips (Fukuoka, Japan)
Despite his Olympic Gold, there were still some Hafnaoui doubters. Those people disappeared after his first major meet since 2021. Hafnaoui first took on the 400 free. Through prelims, Hafnaoui was 4th with a solid 3:44.34. In the final, he was truly stunning. After a slow 100, Hafnaoui moved into 2nd by the 150. He moved into 1st ahead of Sam Short at the final turn by .07 but Short closed a bit better as he passed Hafnaoui by just .02 seconds. The silver for Hafnaoui in 3:40.70 is a massive personal best, an African record, and makes him the #5 performer in history. For perspective, it took Hafnaoui a time of 3:43.36 to grab the gold at the 2020 Olympic Games.
Hafnaoui entered the 800 free with a 7:48.50 seed time, respectable but not remarkable. He was great in prelims with a 7:41.97 for 2nd. Hafnaoui just about even split the race going out 3:50.82 and scorching home in 3:51.15 highlighted by a 26.53 final 50. In the final, he let the field take him out quicker to a 3:47.20 at the 400. He raced most of the race in a tight pack with Sam Short and Lukas Martens as the 3 vacillated between 1st and 3rd through most of the race. On the last 50, Hafnaoui turned on the jets with a 26.24 to pass Short and touch the wall in 7:37.00. The time was a massive PB and made him the #3 performer in history but was not even a national record as Ous Mellouli went 7:35.27 in 2009 behind the Zhang Lin’s unfathomable 7:32.12.
In perhaps the most anticipated race on the guys’ side, Hafnaoui entered the meet with a 15:00.24. After a solid 14:49.53 in prliem, he dropped the hammer in the finals. Hafnaoui settled into his pace quickly and moved through the filed until he was battling with Bobby Finke for 2nd while Sam Short went out in the lead with an aggressive start. Finke and Hafnaoui reeled in Short by the 1000 and the two never looked back. The two went in lockstep down the stretch, both entering another gear on the final 50 and pushing eachother to a tight finish. Hafnaoui was just able to fend off Finke by .05 seconds as he closed in 26.23. The two came to the wall in 14:31.54 and 14:31.59. Hafnaoui’s 14:31.54 represented the 2nd fastest swim ever and a new African record while Finke’s was the 3rd fastest ever.