2020 TOKYO SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES
- When: Pool swimming: Saturday, July 24 – Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Open Water swimming: Wednesday, August 4 – Thursday, August 5, 2021
- Where: Olympic Aquatics Centre / Tokyo, Japan
- Heats: 7 PM / Semifinals & Finals: 10:30 AM (Local time)
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Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui orchestrated the first major upset of the swimming competition in Tokyo, winning Olympic gold in the men’s 400 freestyle from out in Lane 8 in what was a truly stunning result.
Hafnaoui, 18, had a strong showing in the prelims just to get into the final, lowering his best time from 3:46.16 to 3:45.68 to snag eighth place after coming in seeded 16th, but that was only the beginning.
Hafnaoui was an afterthought coming into the final—despite hitting a PB in the heats, he still had the slowest lifetime best among the eight finalists.
The 2018 Youth Olympian got off to a strong start, out of sight of the men in the center lanes, turning second at the halfway mark behind Australia’s Jack McLoughlin, who was also out on the outside in Lane 2.
Having created a bit of separation on the field, the two men duelled it out over the last 50 from opposite ends of the pool. As they crossed the flags over the final few meters, Hafnaoui inched in front. The gold was his.
The shock on his face, and the exuberance of his coach in the stands, said it all.
— FINA (@fina1908) July 25, 2021
His final time: 3:43.36. 2.32 seconds faster than the night before, and 2.80 better than his best time coming in. (McLoughlin was less than two tenths back for silver in 3:43.52, and American Kieran Smith won the bronze in 3:43.94.)
However, the time is not even a Tunisian Record, as Hafnaoui is the second freestyler from the North African nation of 11.6 million to have made an impact on the world stage.
Ous Mellouli is swimming royalty in Tunisia, winning the country’s first-ever gold in the sport in the men’s 1500 freestyle in 2008. Mellouli, now 37, won a second Olympic gold medal in the 10k open water event in 2012, and also picked up a bronze in the mile (he’s slated to compete in his sixth Olympics in the open water event here in Tokyo).
That gives Hafnaoui Tunisia’s third medal in history in the pool, and it’s also Africa’s first in the 400 freestyle, period.
Mellouli came close in Beijing, placing fifth in what was an African Record at the time (3:43.45), but Hafnaoui earns the distinction as the first African medalist in the 400 free.
As an aside, here’s a crazy little bit of information on Hafnaoui’s meteoric rise to the top. He was eighth at the 2018 Youth Olympics in the 400 free, 10th at the 2019 World Juniors, and now he’s the Olympic champion.
Mellouli would lower the African and Tunisian Records in the event down to 3:41.11 during the “super-suit era” in 2009, when records fell by the wayside at an astonishing rate. Now that’s just something new for Hafnaoui to shoot for.
Hafnaoui is far from done here in Tokyo. In fact, the best still may be yet to come.
Coming into the Games, on paper, his better event was the 800 free, which will be contested for the first time at the Olympics this year. Hafnaoui set a best time of 7:45.54 last month, seeding him eighth. And if the 400 is any indication, he may well finish much higher than that in a few days time.
Continental & National Records On Day 1
- Men’s 100 breaststroke: Sudan – Abobakr Abass, 1:04.46
African Medal Table Through Day 1
|SwimSwam News – 2020 Tokyo Olympics|
|Pool Swimming Medal Table|