As countries continue to reveal their respective rosters for the upcoming 2021 Short Course World Swimming Championships, another big name has been added to the field in the form of Olympic gold medalist Ahmed Hafnaoui. Arab News reported recently that Hafnaoui will race at the meet, which will be held in the United Arab Emirates from December 16 – 21.
Hafnaoui recently rose to international swimming stardom at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games where he delivered a 3:43.36 to earn a gold medal. Hafnaoui pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the meet, having been entered in 16th place in the 400 freestyle with a 3:46.16 and qualifying for the final by only 0.14 seconds. He was 8th in the prelims with a 3:45.68, just ahead of Switzerland’s Antonio Djakovic who notched a 3:45.82.
This meet will represent Hafnaoui’s first high-level meet since the Olympics and will give him an opportunity to improve upon his results from his last short course Worlds performance. Back in 2018, Hafnaoui raced for Tunisia in Hangzhou, China where he placed 19th overall in the 400 freestyle and 17th in the 1500 freestyle. Notably, his time in the short course 400 freestyle of 3:45.98 back in 2018 is slower than both his prelims and finals swim in the long course version of the event at the Olympics.
Hafnaoui has also raced for his country at the 2018 Youth Olympics, the 2018 African Championships, and the 2019 World Championships. At the African Championships 3 years ago he picked up a silver medal in the 4×200 freestyle, along with a bronze medal in the 800 free, 1500 free, and 4×100 free relay.
In the wake of his Olympic success, 18-year-old Hafnaoui announced that he will be making the move to the United States to begin his collegiate career at Indiana University. He is expected to make the move for the Fall 2022 semester. While he will likely make an immediate impact for Indiana based on his long course performances, his swims at Short Course Worlds will give a better indication of how competitive he will be in a short course pool.
Over the course of the first 14 Short Course World Championships, Tunisia has won a total of 7 medals. All 7 of those podium finishes were courtesy of multi-Olympic medalist Oussama Mellouli. At the 2004 Short Course Worlds, Mellouli took gold in the 400 IM and bronze in the 200 IM, and 6 years later at the 2010 Championships won 4 medals including 1500 freestyle gold, 400 IM silver, and 200/400 freestyle bronze. His most recent top 3 finish was in 2014 when he picked up his 7th Short Course Worlds medal with a silver in the 1500 freestyle.