Hafnaoui, Short, Finke, and Wiffen Become #3, #4, #7, And #9 800 Free Performers Ever


What. A. Race.

The finals of the men’s 800 free at the 2023 World Championships was a barn burner, as three different records were broken. The top four finishers, Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui, Australia’s Sam Short, America’s Bobby Finke, and Ireland’s Daniel Wiffen also became the third, fourth, seventh, and ninth-fastest performers in history.

All-Time Top Performers, Men’s 800 Free:

  1. Zhang Lin, China — 7:32.12 (2009)
  2. Oussama Mellouli, Tunisia — 7:35.27 (2009)
  3. Ahmed Hafnaoui, Tunisia — 7:37.00 (2023)
  4. Sam Short, Australia — 7:37.76 (2023)
  5. Sun Yang, China — 7:38.57 (2011)
  6. Grant Hackett, Australia — 7:38.65 (2005)
  7. Bobby Finke, United States — 7:38.67 (2023)
  8. Ian Thorpe, Australia — 7:39.16 (2001)
  9. Daniel Wiffen, Ireland — 7:39.19 (2023)

Ironically, gold medal winner Hafnaoui was the only swimmer who didn’t break a record. Both the African and the Tunisian record are held by Oussama Mellouli, who swam three seconds faster in a supersuit during the 2009 World Championships.

Hafnaoui also became the fastest 800 freestyle ever in a textile suit.

Short took town Grant Hackett’s iconic Oceanic record time of 7:38.65 set back at the 2005 World Championships. Finke beat out his own American record time of 7:39.36, which was clocked in his gold medal-winning race at the 2022 Worlds. And finally, Wiffen broke Gregorio Paltrinieri‘s European record time of 7:39.27 from 2019.

In the 800 free race, there were several lead changes. Germany’s Lukas Martens was the sole man in the lead for the first 300 meters of the race, and Short first moved in front at the 350-meter mark. Short and Martens traded leads until the 600-meter mark, when Short had full control.

However, on the last 50, Hafnaoui dropped a 26.24 final 50 compared to Short’s 27.16 to pass him for gold. Meanwhile, Finke and Wiffen had 26.79 and 26.70 closing splits respectively to pass Martens.

Splits Comparison:

Ahmed Hafnaoui Sam Short Bobby Finke Daniel Wiffen
50m 26.58 26.18 26.63 26.51
100m 27.96 28.13 28.56 28.47
150m 28.51 28.33 28.84 28.68
200m 28.62 28.73 28.80 28.88
250m 28.76 28.76 29.07 28.90
300m 28.82 29.04 28.84 28.97
350m 28.96 28.94 28.94 29.15
400m 28.99 29.01 29.08 29.17
450m 29.00 29.00 29.02 28.79
500m 29.00 29.09 28.89 29.20
550m 29.33 29.22 29.18 29.09
600m 29.24 29.21 28.87 29.41
650m 29.27 29.26 29.23 29.10
700m 29.12 29.17 28.98 29.36
750m 28.60 28.53 28.95 28.81
800m 26.24 27.16 26.79 26.70
Total 7:37.00 7:37.76 7:38.67 7:39.19

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10 months ago

Definitely a changing of the guard in the 800 Free. The top swimmers are leaning toward the 400 rather than the 1500.

And Short and Hafnaoui are both having outstanding meets.

10 months ago

Anyone who thought that swimming the 10K and 5K ow events last week was no big deal can now look at the pool performances of Paltrenieri, Wellbrock, and Katie Grimes. There’s not enough time to properly recover, especially if you have to go hard in the prelims to make finals.

10 months ago

Many attenders here in swimswam was belittling my man Hafnaoui for a while…and for no apparent reason
…i just wanna say to you all: My condolences…

Last edited 10 months ago by Bob
Reply to  Bob
10 months ago

I didn’t see anyone in comments belittling him, but he was definitely flying under the radar with him not racing internationally since 2021. He’s more than backed up his Olympic performance now

Reply to  chickenlamp
10 months ago

Believe not only many of the attenders
I remember reading an article here that was very ugly questioned his Olympic gold eligibility back in 2020
…i remember it was soooo bad, seemed the only phrase missing from that artical is “sorry, Hafnaoui has won”

Last edited 10 months ago by Bob
Reply to  chickenlamp
10 months ago

*i meant 2021

Reply to  Bob
10 months ago

Honestly I just forgot about him. He has barely swam LCM since the Olympics but I don’t think anyone’s forgetting about him any time soon!

He breaks the hearts of Australia with a surprise win over an Aussie AGAIN but hard to be mad at that. He’s great

Fukuoka Gold
Reply to  Bob
10 months ago

It’s because Hafnaoui barely swam since Tokyo, so we couldn’t judge his current performance.

10 months ago

Amazing race, and has to be overall the fastest 800 top to bottom ever, and the top two were still almost five seconds off the record. That record is going to stand for a long time.

10 months ago

Yeah if you didn’t enjoy that, you are difficult to please. Top shelf, distance swimming.

Andy Hardt
10 months ago

I think too much has been made of the tactics in the men’s distance events the past couple of years, particularly as relating to Bobby Finke. I’ll try to explain what I mean.

Certainly, there’s plenty of strategy involved in maximizing one’s own performance. Finding the right pace and managing energy is mentally difficult as well as physically, and different swimmers are best suited to different strategies. Finke, for instance, often likes to negative split and finish fast, while Paltrinieri, for example, is more of a positive splitter, and just holds on the last 50. Swapping strategies probably wouldn’t work for either swimmer.

In addition, I do think it’s a viable strategy for a fast finisher who is also very… Read more »

10 months ago

Crazy how short’s and hafnaoui’s splits are almost identical throughout the race until that closing speed

10 months ago

Are there any Oceanic records that aren’t Australian

Reply to  Noah
10 months ago

Yes, New Zealand holds 6 of them.

-Men’s 200 fly (Moss Burmester – 1:54.15)
-Men’s 400 IM (Lewis Clareburt – 4:08.70)
-Women’s 1500 free (Lauren Boyle – 15:40.14)
-Mixed 200 medley relay (1:47.13)

-Men’s 200 fly (Moss Burmester – 1:51.05)
-Women’s 800 free (Lauren Boyle – 8:01.22)

Reply to  Braden Keith
10 months ago

Wait there are official records for LCM 4×50 relays even though they’re not swum at any major event? Interesting.

Well done to NZ. That’s a great effort for such a small country

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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