SwimSwam Pulse: 64% Pick Hafnaoui As Biggest Upset Winner of Tokyo Games

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side, or you can find the poll embedded at the bottom of this post.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers to pick the biggest upset winner of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games:


Question: Who was the biggest upset winner of the Tokyo Olympic Games?

Almost two-thirds of the votes for biggest upset winner in Tokyo went to Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui, who stunned everyone with a surprise victory from Lane 8 in the men’s 400 freestyle.

The poll presented readers with an interesting question: how do they define an upset?

Hafnaoui was surely the biggest surprise to see atop the podium—no one in the SwimSwam Pick ’em Contest had even selected him to finish in the top four, let alone win.

But the men’s 400 free was one of the most wide open fields of the meet.

Reigning four-time world champion Sun Yang was absent, as was defending Olympic gold medalist Mack HortonElijah Winnington, who, along with eventual Tokyo silver medalist Jack McLoughlin, had beaten Horton head-to-head at the Australian Olympic Trials, was the swimmer most predicted to win the event, but with so many names seemingly in the mix for gold, can the race have a true “upset” winner?

On the flip side of that was the women’s 100 breaststroke, where defending champion Lilly King had essentially been undefeated in the event since Rio and looked like a near-lock for gold; she received somewhere in the vicinity of 96 percent of the first-place votes in the pick ’em.

But Lydia Jacoby dethroned the incumbent to win gold, with King falling to bronze as South African Tatjana Schoenmaker snagged silver.

Then there was Bobby Finke, who swept the men’s 800 and 1500 freestyle despite being a sizable underdog in both (he had four people pick him to win in each, about 0.4 percent). Those events lacked a clear favorite, but the medals were expected to be dispersed between the European trio of Gregorio PaltrinieriMykhailo Romanchuk and Florian Wellbrock, but Finke spoiled the party and used some killer closing speed in both races to touch first.

And then the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay, like the 100 breast, had a clear, bonafide favorite in Australia, while the Americans were given a chance by many as well. It was, however, the Chinese team orchestrating the upset, having been picked to win by just three people.

As the results show, the majority of readers voted for Hafnaoui (64.3%), giving the “biggest upset winner” nod to the swimmer least expected to make it on top of the podium, rather than someone like Jacoby (14.9%), who took down a big favorite.

Finke (13.6%) was close behind Jacoby, likely due to the dominance the aforementioned European trio has had in the distance events in recent years (and the fact that Finke dropped a lot of time, and they all added time, to make his victories possible).

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks voters to pick the International Swimming League (ISL) club most likely to break into the League’s Grand Final this season after the same four (Energy Standard, Cali Condors, London Roar, LA Current) have been in the final each of the first two seasons:

Which ISL club has the best chance to break into the Grand Final in Season 3?

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A3 Performance is an independently-owned, performance swimwear company built on a passion for swimming, athletes, and athletic performance. We encourage swimmers to swim better and faster at all ages and levels, from beginners to Olympians.  Driven by a genuine leader and devoted staff that are passionate about swimming and service, A3 Performance strives to inspire and enrich the sport of swimming with innovative and impactful products that motivate swimmers to be their very best – an A3 Performer.

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1 month ago

Did he swim other events or is he a “one trick pony”?

Reply to  DJTrockstoYMCA
1 month ago

Think he swam the 800 but didn’t do anything particularly notable.

Reply to  DJTrockstoYMCA
1 month ago

If u only have 1 trick winning an Olympic gold medal is a hell of a trick!

M d e
Reply to  JimSwim22
1 month ago

Yeah exactly.

One trick is enough if it gets the job done.

1 month ago

It’s hard to say anyone who the US qualifies is a massive shock, but surprised to see Jacoby ahead of Finke.

Women’s 100 breast often see shock teenage winners and it only needed King to be a bit off for that race to be wide open.

Finke winning the 1500 though probably relied on none of the Europeans getting down into the 15:30 mid range, which was a big surprise.

Reply to  Togger
1 month ago

maybe because of morning finals too

Reply to  Khachaturian
1 month ago

in Beijing 2008, which were also morning finals, the milers actually did very well. i think the pandemic is to blame, as weeks on end out of pool time is bound to disrupt training for pacing precision

1 month ago

also by far the best winning reaction of the in pool swimming events. only fratus’ bronze comes close

1 month ago

I voted for Hafnaoui – as did most people.

If I’d had a second vote it would have been for China. Men’s distance free was similarly open to the 400 and Finke coming through the pack was surprising but not shocking.

In King vs Australia, I’d have had Australia as more of a favourite as well as having others between the favourite and eventual winner. King not winning was a surprise – Jacoby being ready to pounce really wasn’t

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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