Defending 400 Freestyle Olympic Champion Ahmed Hafnaoui Will Miss Paris Olympics

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in the 400 freestyle, will not be competing at the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics. According to Africa Aquatics, this news was revealed by Tunisian Olympic Committee head Mehrez Bousyan on a televised sports program, and had also been confirmed by Hafnaoui himself.

Hafnaoui was one of the gold medal favorites in the 400, 800, and 1500 free events. At the 2023 World Championships, he won gold in the latter two events while taking silver in the former, becoming a top six performer of all-time in all three events.

Ahmed Hafaoui World Rankings, 2022-23 Long Course Season:

  • 400 Free: #2 (3:40.70)
  • 800 Free: #1 (7:37.00)
  • 1500 Free: #1 (14:31.54)

Additionally, Hafnaoui also revealed that he no longer plans on training in the United States. In February, he said that he was applying for a United States visa with the intention of training with The Swim Team, Mark Schubert‘s pro group in California. This season, he was originally slated to compete collegiately with Indiana University, but stopped swimming with the team after swimming two dual meets.

Hafnaoui last competed at the 2024 World Championships, where he finished 17th in the 400 free (3:48.05), 18th in the 800 free (7:51.72), and 17th in the 1500 free (15:09.72).

Without Hafnaoui, the medal projections in the distance freestyle events are a lot different come time for Paris. The 400 free will likely be a battle between Australia’s Sam Short and Germany’s Lukas Martens, while the 800 free will be headlined by Short, Ireland’s Daniel Wiffen, and the United States’ Bobby Finke. Meanwhile, Finke is now the favorite to win the 1500 free, with a personal best time that is 2.48 seconds faster than the rest of the world during this Olympic cycle.

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Caleb
1 month ago

Anyone who wants to stir up trouble could ask what advice he got re: visa issues when he moved to California. What promises did Schubert make him? Wouldnt it violate terms of his student visa to quit school and move to CA? If you violate those terms you’re not gonna get approved for another one right away, no matter where you come from. Did Looze warn or guide him or just watch him self-sabotage his hope of staying in the US, once Hafnoui said he wanted to leave IU?

hagen gruber
1 month ago

About the last paragraph: Märtens will not start at the 800 freestyle in Paris. He’ll focus on 200, 400 and the relay.

Khase Calisz
1 month ago

What…

GowdyRaines
Reply to  Khase Calisz
1 month ago

Props on the name, bruh.

JouseReff
Reply to  GowdyRaines
1 month ago

Really!!

Swimmerparent
1 month ago

Regardless of commentary on Indiana, he would have been provided with all around support in pretty much all aspects of his life. Moving away from a supportive collegiate environment to a new pro program would most likely have been more stressful than successful. A move back to Tunisia may have felt like a step backwards. In hindsight perhaps turning pro and staying at Indiana where his results were world class may have been a better choice. Hopefully he will find better health and the hunger to compete at his best again.

Greg P
Reply to  Swimmerparent
1 month ago

In hindsight perhaps turning pro and staying at Indiana where his results were world class may have been a better choice.

I don’t think he could have done this.

Him being in Indiana was under student visa sponsored by IU.

Turning pro would have made his visa void (just like what he found out in Schubert group).

Unfortunately, Hafanoui is from Tunisia and I can imagine it’s very hard for him to get visa if not sponsored by US institution. Even Schubert couldn’t help him.

Swimmerparent
Reply to  Greg P
1 month ago

I understand his student visa would have voided if he turned pro, however there are a number of international pro’s training in the US who must have been able to obtain the correct visa. So why couldn’t Hafanoui?

Last edited 1 month ago by Swimmerparent
Greg P
Reply to  Swimmerparent
1 month ago

Not every country has the same visa arrangements and applications with the US.

I can imagine Tunisia being a developing country, a largely muslim north Africa country has far different visa rules than say Canada or West European countries.

And the proof is in the pudding:

Hafanoui had been trying to get US visa to train with Schubert, unsuccessfully.

Last edited 1 month ago by Greg P
BingBopBam
1 month ago

I swear this WR has more lives than a cat

Greg P
Reply to  BingBopBam
1 month ago

Martens, Short, and Winnington still has a chance.

JJ jfhfjg
Reply to  Greg P
1 month ago

Nah 3.42 will win it

SHRKB8
Reply to  JJ jfhfjg
1 month ago

No way will 3.42 win the 400 in Paris, that will be lucky to medal.

Greg P
Reply to  JJ jfhfjg
1 month ago

This ain’t Tokyo Olympics dude.

Carlo
Reply to  Greg P
1 month ago

Not without Hafnaoui to set the pace for them to chase.

Sometimes, you just need another swimmer next to you acting as your rabbit to break a word record.

Greg P
Reply to  Carlo
1 month ago

Huh?

Did you not watch 2023 Fukuoka?

It was actually Short who set the pace. Short was the rabbit and Short was the rabbit who can close.

Winnington can serve as the rabbit for Martens and Short to chase

yamatake
Reply to  Carlo
1 month ago

Short (and now Maertens) goes out faster than Hafnaoui.

RealCrocker5040
1 month ago

Wow is he being coached by Coach Peter Andrew now

Fair for all
Reply to  RealCrocker5040
1 month ago

That is just sad. Why the hate?

Troyy
1 month ago

Well that is quite a bombshell to wake up to! And very light on details too. Surely it’s not just because of the training situation? Surely there has to be more to the story because it’s not like there aren’t any elite distance programs in Europe he could’ve trained at?

Troyy
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Nevermind. The comments are filling out the details.

Greg P
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

I think he should have never gone to USA in the first place.

Buttafly
Reply to  Greg P
1 month ago

He seemed to do pretty well in 2023 with Indiana’s training with his triple gold

Greg P
Reply to  Buttafly
1 month ago

And then he didn’t.

The fact is he couldn’t stay in Indiana, so something must have gone wrong.

Troyy
Reply to  Buttafly
1 month ago

He was on a very steep trajectory before he went to Indiana.

Greg P
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Exactly.

He could have stayed in Tunisia and still would have gone as fast and better for his long term well being.

Not every swimmer needs to go to the US to swim fast.

Also, Hafanoui would have probably been better off training under Philipe Lucas in Marseille.

yamatake
Reply to  Greg P
1 month ago

We will never know what his trajectory would have been if he stayed in Tunisia.

Greg P
Reply to  yamatake
1 month ago

And we know that training in USA brought him glory in Fukuoka and fucked him up bad afterwards that he is not going to Paris.

Greg P
Reply to  yamatake
1 month ago

We know that training in USA brought him glory in Fukuoka but totally messed him up badly afterwards that he is not going to Paris.

snailSpace
Reply to  Greg P
1 month ago

Saying that training in the US did this to him isn’t really accurate though. What happened is he wanted to attend university in the US on a sports scholarship, found out the student-athlete life didn’t suit him, so he tried to switch to a pro distance program still in the US, and was forced to return to his Tunisian coach when he couldn’t get a visa.
At no point was he forced to either commit to Indiana or train as a pro in California, and it’s not like it was because of ‘training’ that he got messed up; it was the lack of training – so training in the US didn’t mess him up, he just found himself in… Read more »

Greg P
Reply to  snailSpace
1 month ago

And he would not have been in that unfortunate situation had he not gone to USA. Which brought it back to my point: Perhaps he should not have gone to the US

snailSpace
Reply to  Greg P
1 month ago

Ooh I see your point. In any case, training in Indiana definitely brought him success whereas we can only speculate what would have happened had he stayed in Tunisia.
And, again, this situation is of his own making. So while it’s really sad he won’t be able to compete, he doesn’t really have anyone else to blame but himself. A more mature decision for example could have been staying in Indiana until the Olympics and then going pro or whatever.
Of course we don’t know the personal side of things which is also important, but the “should have”-s are kind of pointless to talk about.

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming by being her high school swim team's manager for four years. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in January 2022, where she hopes to contribute to and learn more about …

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