TOKYO (Reuters) – Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui was so shocked to see his name in the gold medal position for the 400m freestyle on Sunday he did not believe his eyes but after letting his stunning win at the Tokyo Olympics sink in he said he hoped to have made his family proud.
The 18-year-old, who finished ahead of Australia’s Jack McLoughlin and U.S. swimmer Kieran Smith, said he was surprised even to be in the final, where he swam in the outside lane after being the slowest in qualifying.
“I believe it when I touched the wall … I was so surprised I didn’t accept that,” he told a news conference.
“I dedicate (the gold) to all my family, my mum, my dad, my sisters, I wish they are proud of me.”
Hafnaoui powered home over the last 50m, touching the wall in 3:43.36, far quicker than the 3:45.68 he swam in qualifying on Saturday.
His gold medal is only the fifth won by a Tunisian athlete at the Olympics, but their third in swimming.
“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.
(Reporting by Farah Master in Hong Kong; Editing by Peter Rutherford)