Tokyo: Eighteen-year-old Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui stunned everyone at Tokyo Olympics to clinch the men’s 400m freestyle swimming gold ahead of Jack McLoughlin (3.43:52s) of Australia and Kieran Smith (3.43:94s) of the United States on Sunday. He is now Tunisia’s second Olympics gold medallist in swimming.
Coming in the final as an underdog — Hafnaoui was the last to qualify for the finals with 3.48:68s — the teenager clocked 3.43:36s to win the yellow metal at a time when no one believed in him. He had earlier finished eighth in the same event at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
Following a world record-breaking in the first 200m, times slowed in the second half of the race. However, Hafnaoui pushed himself in the final 50 meters to etch his name in history books. Hafnaoui had now joined the list with compatriot Oussama Mellouli, who won gold in the 10km marathon swimming event in the 2012 London Olympics.
Speaking about the victory, the champion said, “I just can’t believe that, it’s amazing. I felt better in the water this morning than yesterday and that’s it. I’m the Olympic champion now.”
“I just put my head in the water and that’s it. I just can’t believe it. It’s a dream come true,” he added. “He’s a legend. I wish to be like him someday,” Hafnaoui said of Mellouli, who also won 1500m freestyle bronze at Beijing 2008.
“I was in tears. When I see the flag of my country, and I hear the anthem in the background, it was great. I’m so proud of it,” he added. Hafnaoui is been preparing for the 800m freestyle event as well, which begins on July 27.