Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui wins shocking Olympic gold

In one of the best moments of the Olympics so far, Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui became one of the Summer Games’ unlikeliest victors.

Hafnaoui, who is relatively unknown in the swimming world, triumphed in the 400m freestyle in Tokyo on Sunday. It took the 18-year-old looking at the scoreboard to see his time of 3:43.36 to realize he had won. It resulted in him letting out repeated primal screams as he hit the water, ripping off his swim cap, throwing himself onto the lane line and cheering.

Hafnaoui started the race keeping up with the rest of the field before pulling away late to secure the win.

Hafnaoui qualified on Saturday for the final by a margin of 0.17 seconds, marking the worst time of those in the field. Swimming in Lane 8, the teen simply told himself to “go faster than yesterday,” and edged out Australia’s Jack McLoughlin by 14-hundredths of a second to clinch the gold. Team USA’s Kieran Smith took the bronze.

“I just can’t accept that,” Hafnaoui said. “It’s too unbelievable.”

His shock remained evident as he awkwardly stood on the podium, looking unsure what to do with his medal. While taking a photo with McLoughlin and Smith, Hafnaoui stood on the side until Smith moved him into the middle position where the winner traditionally stands.

Ahmed Hafnaoui
Ahmed Hafnaoui won the gold in the 400m freestyle.
AP

A reporter asked Hafnaoui what it feels like to be a national hero to which he responded with: “I don’t know.”

Hafnaoui is only the second Tunisian to qualify for an Olympic swimming final. Ous Mellouli, the first swimmer, also won gold.

Throughout the past year, Hafnaoui went from being outside the world 100 to No 16. When asked about himself, Hafnaoui simply said he likes “hanging out with friends, playing video games,” and is hoping to swim at a U.S. university.

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