Indiana’s Olympic Champion Ahmed Hafnaoui Will Miss 2022-23 Season

The NCAA has ruled Indiana freshman Ahmed Hafnaoui a partial qualifier based on academics, meaning the surprise Tokyo Olympic champion must sit out the 2022-23 season in academic residence. 

The NCAA applies three tiers of qualification to student-athletes: non-qualifier, partial qualifier, and full qualifier. As a partial qualifier, Hafnaoui is able to compete with the team, retain his full scholarship (which counts against the team’s cap even though he is not competing), and attend classes. He is also allowed to compete in outside competition. As long as he maintains a 2.0 GPA in his year in residence at Indiana, he will become fully eligible to compete for the varsity squad next season.

The 19-year-old from Tunisia will still have four years of eligibility if he becomes academically eligible after the year-long residence. Hafnaoui is still expected to train with the Hoosiers this year in Bloomington and compete at the 2022 World Short Course Championships in Melbourne in December. Indiana head coach Ray Looze says he may participate in some World Cup meets as well.

Hafnaoui committed to Indiana last September, soon after his breakout 400-meter freestyle victory in Tokyo. He came into the Summer Games ranked 17th in the world in the event for 2021 and qualified eighth for the final by just .14 seconds. Then from lane eight, he pulled off a stunner, lowering his personal best by 2.8 seconds between the heats and final to win in a time of 3:43.36. 

Further illustrating Hafnaoui’s meteoric rise was the fact that he only placed eighth at the 2018 Youth Olympics in the 400 free and 10th at the 2019 World Juniors before becoming the Olympic champion.

Hafnaoui has no recorded results in 2022 on his FINA profile. He resumed training again around June after taking the first half of the year off to focus on his school studies

Looze says that preparations for the Olympics, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, disrupted Hafnaoui’s academic progress, especially his work on learning English. Looze says that he was impressed by how hard Hafnaoui worked, and the sacrifice he made by skipping the World Championships, to study for his exams to gain the partial qualification.

Hafnaoui was set to provide a huge boost to Indiana’s freestyle group this year. The Hoosiers begin their season Wednesday at Kentucky.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
7 months ago

TST might be one of the best distance training groups in the world right now with all these pros

1 year ago

what does a high end swimmer need to get into like a high end D1 collage like CAL, NC state, ASU etc.

1 year ago

is there a stat or fact-based opinion on how international swimmers in the US College system and NCAA improved in general?
There seems to be a strong correlation between country of origin and success.
Hungarians didn’t do so well (as in: didn’t improve as much), whereas Dutch and Danish swimmers got a big boost. That’s my sense from a few swimmers’ stories

I Have a PhD in Astrophysics
1 year ago

Hard to believe he couldn’t get into IU academically, I always thought anyone with a third grade reading level could get in.

1 year ago

I was looking forward to seeing him race at NCAA’s this year.

frozen 2 soundtrack
1 year ago

at this rate id be shocked if he ends up staying at IU. Seems like turning pro is likely

Reply to  frozen 2 soundtrack
1 year ago

He’s already training in the pro group as a pro, but he’s been adamant about his interest to pursue his education and obtain a degree, so I’d be surprised if he officially turned pro.

Reply to  Andrew
1 year ago

I mean he can turn pro and still get his degree can’t he?

Zach Apple Superfan
Reply to  jeff
1 year ago

it wouldn’t be paid for

Tommy Schmitt
Reply to  frozen 2 soundtrack
1 year ago

He has very little upside long-term from going pro now. His home country is in a dire economic state needing another IMF bail-out and the president changed the constitution so he can rule by decree. Not exactly the kind of place that’s giving someone much hope for a bright future.

I’d take the opportunity to get a US degree and pursue my life (sporting wise and professionally afterwards) away from home in his case. He can always go back in any case if IU doesn’t work out for him.

1 year ago

This is an issue with Tunisian government education eligibility, not Hafnaoui or IU.

Next year will be his freshman year and he’ll be an absolute beast. Problem is that next year IU loses key depth and Capobianco and they need him now.

Your mama don't dance
1 year ago

NCAA is a joke. The hypocrisy of it all. Shut the system down.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

Read More »