Tokyo 2020 Day 1 Prelims All-Star: Ahmed Hafnaoui Hits 3:45.68 400 Free For 8th


The first finals session of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games has wrapped up and things got off to an interesting start as we got a look at the first 6 Olympic races since 2016. Swimmers took to the men’s 400 IM, women’s 100 fly, men’s 400 free, women’s 400 IM, men’s 100 breaststroke, and women’s 4×100 freestyle prelims.

While there was much to discuss during the session, we’ll be talking here about our first official Tokyo 2020 Prelims All-Star. This award will be given daily to a swimmer at the Games who throws down a solid morning swim that likely hasn’t put them in contention for a podium finish but was nonetheless impressive.

The day 1 recipient of the Prelims All-Star award is Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui who swam a 3:45.68 400 freestyle to qualify in 8th place for the men’s 400 freestyle final. Tunisia is widely known for its Olympic legend and 2008 1500 freestyle victor Ous Mellouli but this Olympic final-qualifying swim from Hafnaoui is a solid step forward for the country. Hafnaoui has just become the second Tunisian swimmer to ever qualify for an Olympic final.

Hafnaoui got his hand on the wall during prelims in a 3:45.68 which was just 0.14 seconds quicker than 9th place finisher Antonio Djakovic who hit a 3:45.82 Swiss record. Hafnaoui finished less than a second behind the 4th – 7th place finishers meaning that if he can shave off a bit of time during the second swim, he has the potential to move up. If the field is at their best tonight, however, the podium will likely be slightly out of reach for Hafnaoui as 5 of the top 8 swimmers in the final have now been a 3:44.51 or faster. While Winnington and McLoughlin of Australia both missed the top heading into finals, they will still be competitive for the crown, having swum a 3:42.65 and 3:43.27, respectively, at Olympic Trials.

Tokyo 2020 Men’s 400 Freestyle Prelims – Top 8

  1. Henning Mühlleitner (GER), 3:43.67
  2. Felix Auboeck (AUT), 3:43.91
  3. Gabriele Detti (ITA), 3:44.67
  4. Elijah Winnington (AUS) / Jack McLoughlin (AUS), 3:45.20
  5. Kieran Smith (USA), 3:45.25
  6. Jake Mitchell (USA), 3:45.38
  7. Ahmed Hafnaoui (TUN), 3:45.68

The swim for Hafnaoui was an improvement upon both his PB in the event of 3:46.16 and his entry ranking of 16th overall. Since there is no semi-final for the 400 races, the prelims are do-or-die at the Olympics and Hafnaoui certainly rose to the occasion here, defeating a number of men who were in the conversation for a podium finish. Among those who Hafnaoui didn’t allow into the top 8 were Italian young gun Marco de Tullio, South American record holder Guilherme Costa of Brazil, and Lithuanian powerhouse Danas Rapsys.

Hafnaoui has shown significant improvement in the event in 2021 specifically, having had a PB of 3:49.90 at the end of 2020. By May 2021 he had gotten down to a 3:47.79 which he followed in early June with a 3:47.81 and then a 3:46.16 a few weeks later before notching a lifetime best of 3:45.68 in the Olympic prelim,

Hafnaoui is set to race his first Olympic final at 10:52 am on July 25, 2021, local time in Japan. A top 8 finish at the minimum for Hafnaoui will likely give him a confidence boost heading into his second Olympic event a few days from now which will be the men’s 800 freestyle. There, he has entered in 8th place with a 7:45.54.

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Billy mays
1 month ago

Love seeing news like this. Countries becoming “stronger” and making breakthroughs in the swimming world.

1 month ago

I was pleasantly surprised by Jake Mitchell preliminary swim. I did not think he was going to make it.

1 month ago

Prelims All Star Award recipient and gold medalist in one 24 hour period! Well done!!

1 month ago

This aged like fine wine

1 month ago

Congrats Ahmed! A beautiful gold medal for Tunisia.

Kate Suarez
Reply to  Swimehdi
1 month ago

Absolutely Stunning swim of Tunisian Athlete Ahmed Hafnaoui! God Bless Him!