Who Is Ahmed Hafnaoui? Teenage Olympic Swimmer Wins Tunisia's First Gold at Tokyo 2020

Tunisian Olympic swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui won the men's 400-meter freestyle final on Sunday. He claimed Tunisia's first gold medal win at the Tokyo Olympics and the country's first Olympic gold medal win in the 400-meter freestyle category.

His latest win is the country's third Olympic gold medal win in swimming in history and the first African and Arab gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 18-year-old, considered the underdog of the competition, had qualified in eighth place at the preliminaries. He bagged the surprise win by 0.16 seconds, beating Australia's Jack McLoughlin, the silver medal winner, and Team USA's Kieran Smith, who took the bronze win.

The teenage swimming athlete said Sunday: "I just can't believe that, it's amazing. I felt better in the water this morning than yesterday and that's it. I'm the Olympic champion now," according to the Tokyo Olympics website.

"I just put my head in the water and that's it. I just can't believe it. It's a dream come true."

Hafnaoui will also be competing in the 800-meter freestyle competition at the Tokyo Olympics, which begins on July 27.

A huge moment for #TUN!

Teenager Ahmed Hafnaoui takes surprise gold in the 400m men's freestyle final - their third ever in swimming.@fina1908 #Swimming pic.twitter.com/BMFuawyXC6

— Olympics (@Olympics) July 25, 2021

Who Is Ahmed Hafnaoui?

Born on December 4, 2002, Hafnaoui is the son of a former member of Tunisia's national basketball team, Mohamed Hafnaoui, according to the Tokyo 2020 website.

The teenage Olympian first joined the national swimming program of Tunisia when he was 12 years old. At the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Hafnaoui competed in the 200-, 400- and 800-meter freestyle events, ranking eighth in the 400-meter race and seventh in the 800-meter.

According to FINA (Fédération internationale de natation, or International Swimming Federation), Hafnaoui has previously won a silver medal and three bronze medals at the African Swimming Championships.

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui at Tokyo 2020.
Tunisian swimming champion Ahmed Hafnaoui posing with his gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 25 in Tokyo, Japan. Al Bello/Getty Images

Among his idols growing up was Tunisian Olympic swimmer Oussama Mellouli, who won a gold medal at the 1500-meter event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and another gold at the 2012 London Games for the 10-kilometer marathon swim.

"He's a legend. I wish to be like him someday," Hafnaoui said, according to the Tokyo 2020 website. "I was in tears. When I see the flag of my country, and I hear the anthem in the background, it was great. I'm so proud of it."

Hafnaoui and Mellouli are the only Tunisian swimming gold medalists. The teenager's latest win marks the country's fifth medal ever at the Olympics.

According to the Tokyo 2020 website, back in 2019, Hafnaoui told Tunisia's La Presse that he was aiming for a gold medal win at the Tokyo Games in the 800-meter event.

The Tokyo Olympics website also reported the teenage swimming champion said in 2019 that he intends to bag a gold at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui at Tokyo 2020.
Ahmed Hafnaoui celebrating his win of the men's 400-meter freestyle final at the Tokyo Olympics on July 25 in Tokyo, Japan. Ian MacNicol/Getty Images