His name did not ring a bell: Ahmed Hafnaoui. Qualified with the 8th time for the final, nobody expected him to win. However, he beat the two favorites, the American Kieran Smith and the Australian Jack McLoughlin in the 400 meters freestyle. A new athlete of barely 18 years old who sees a promising careerin the years to come.
Who is Ahmed Hafnaoui?
Son of a professional basketball player, Ahmed Hafnaoui has the genes of a champion. Only swimmer of the Tunisian delegation, it was the first games of the young Tunisian swimmer. A dream since always, he confides: “I started to swim when I was five years old. I saw Mellouli’s medal on TV in 2008 in Beijing. He is a legend to me, he wished me good luck before my race.”
But he is also a young man who does not lack ambition. In the Tunisian newspaper La Presse, we can read an interview dating from 2019 where Ahmed Hafnaoui betrays an unshakeable confidence in him: “Thanks to the preparation program concocted by my technical staff, I would be among the best in the world in the 800 m race. A place in the final is even envisaged. I am even capable of climbing on the highest step of the podium”.
A surprising victory
It is a victory for Tunisia: Ahmed Hafnaoui is the 4th Olympic champion of his country, all editions combined. He is in the lineage of Oussama Mellouli, Tunisian swimmer who won the gold in the 1500m during the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008.
At the exit of the pool, the young man shows humility and expresses his joy mixed with surprise: “Of course I was surprised. It is incredible. I believed it when I touched the wall and I saw that I was first, it was great. And when I saw the flag of my country and I heard the anthem (Tunisian), I had tears in my eyes, I was so proud. I dedicate this title to all the Tunisian people: you have a champion now!”
His progress is spectacular: he beat his own record by almost 6 seconds. Previously, he had only participated in smaller competitions: the All Africa Youth Games in 2018 where he was a bronze medalist, the African Championships and the last French Championships.
But the Games are not finished for Ahmed Hafnoui. He is now expected for the 800m freestyle.