Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui is 18. He has won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. This is the first time an African from swimming has won a gold medal at the Olympic Games.
Despite just narrowly missing out on the medal stand in the final, he finished ahead of Australian climbers Jack McLaughlin and American Kieran Smith, who both won silver and bronze.
Hafnaoui got off to a good start and was able to maintain his momentum, swimming brilliantly in the last 50 metres and clocking 3 minutes and 43.36 seconds, three seconds better than his personal best or any of his previous records from before.
“I was really surprised to be in the final, and I was equally surprised when I won gold,” said Hafnaoui. “It wasn’t until I touched the wall and saw that I had first place that it sunk in.”
The athlete was so amazed by what happened that he did not even bother to bring his team uniform to the pool and received his medal while standing on the podium in his training jersey and shorts.
Olympic gold for the Tunisian team
Hafnaoui is the second Tunisian male golfer to win an Olympic gold medal in Tunisia. Among Olympians participating, only two-time gold-medalist Osama Mellouli is a repeat winner, and he will compete in the 10 kilometer marathon event later.
Hafnaoui will take part in the 800m freestyle swim on Tuesday and his contribution to the team’s tally is hard to overstate. Tunisia have only accumulated five gold medals in the entire Olympic competition up until this point.
“When I started, I didn’t think about anything else than the medal and swimming better than yesterday”
Usama Mellouli was the first swimmer from Tunisia to win individual gold and his latest victory has made this Tunisian national hero’s retirement easier.
In an interview, Mellouli said that he is passing on the baton of success to Hafnaoui, who stands poised for a long lists of honors in 2020.
“I wish him the same in the open water marathon,” said the young athlete. – He’s a real legend and I would like to be like him one day.”