TOKYO (Dispatches) -Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Ayoub Hafnaoui was the stunning winner of the 400-metre freestyle at the Tokyo Games on Sunday, beating a field of faster and older athletes and stunning the so-called “swimming superpowers”.
The 18-year-old finished in 3 minutes, 43.26 seconds, punctuating his victory with loud yelling that echoed in the mostly empty 15,000-seat arena.
“I believe when I touched the wall and I saw myself first,” he said. “I was so surprised.”
Australia’s Jack McLoughlin earned silver and American Kieran Smith took bronze. The top three were separated by less than a second after the eight-lap race.
“When I hit the water, I was just thinking about the medal, not the time,” Hafnaoui said.
He squeaked into the final by 14-hundredths of a second, landing him in the far outside lane. The fastest qualifiers were in the middle of the pool.
Hafnaoui made sure he’ll be remembered with a performance that brought joy to audiences back-home in the pandemic and economic crisis stricken nation of Tunisia.