Tunisia’s Hafnaoui pulls upset win in 400m freestyle
By Sophia Mao
Last Saturday, July 24, Ahmed Hafnaoui shocked the world by winning the 400m freestyle in olympic swimming. This was perhaps one of the most unexpected victories in the history of olympics- here’s why.
The 18-year old was swimming in lane 8, which is the lane for the slowest swimmer. In fact, he was the last swimmer to qualify for the finals with a time of 3:45.68. The lane placement from fastest to slowest is: 4,5,3,6,2,7,1,8. The fastest swimmers are usually put in the center lanes because the spectators have the greatest visibility of those lanes.
Growing up, Hafnaoui’s idol was Oussama Mellouli- another Tsunian swimmer who competed in long distance. Mellouli won gold in the Beijing and London Olympics years ago.
The young Tsunian swimmer joined the national swimming programme as a 12-year-old, and competed in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. He finished last in the 400m and second to last in the 800m that year.
In 2019, he told the Tunisian outlet, La Presse, that he was aiming to win gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the 800m event.
During the final race for gold, Hafnaoui started out a little behind, but when the halfway mark was met he was right behind Australia’s Jack McLoughlin. Before anyone knew it, Hafnaoui pushed past McLoughlin with explosive power in the last few meters to win his first olympic gold, as well as his country’s first gold in the event.
“I just can't believe it. It's a dream and it became true. It was great, it was my best race ever,” he said during an interview after the race. He didn’t even need to explain, the look on his face after he won said it all.