Olympic champion Ahmed Hafnaoui expected to return at African Championships

Tunisian Olympic 400m freestyle champion Ahmed Ayoub Hafnaoui prioritising studies but expected to return to competition in August. 

By Guillaume Depasse
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Step by step, Olympic swimming champion Ahmed Ayoub Hafnaoui is preparing his promising future.

While Tokyo 2020 was at the forefront of his mind last year, in 2022 the 400m freestyle gold medallist has decided to focus on his school studies. The Tunisian therefore chose to miss the FINA World Championships currently underway in Budapest and the Mediterranean Games in Oran/Algeria from 25 June to 5 July..

Earlier in the season, it was understood the event in Oran was his comeback goal, but his main coach Sami Achour, who also leads the Tunisian national team, told Olympics.com that the swimmer won’t be in attendance at the end of the month.

Hafnaoui recently resumed training in preparation for the African Swimming Championships, scheduled to take place in Tunis, August 20 - 25.

The 19-year-old was one of the revelations at the 2018 African Swimming Championships in Algiers. At just 15 years of age, Hafnaoui won bronze in 800m freestyle, 1500m freestyle and 400m IM along with a silver medal in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay.

Hafnaoui eyeing U.S. University

The young Olympic champion is about to follow in the footsteps of the new 400m IM World Champion, France's Léon Marchand by attending an U.S. University.

In September of 2021 he committed to Indiana University and will attend in the Fall of 2022.

Hafnaoui will soon have access to high-level training facilities at the same time as he pursues his studies.

He also has the unwavering support of his coach Sami Achour, the Tunisian swimming federation and the Tunisian Youth and Sports ministry.

Olympic champion at 18 years old

At the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Hafnaoui won gold medal in the 400m freestyle race. He clocked a time of 3:43:36 to win the final ahead of the Australian Jack McLoughlin and Kieran Smith (USA).

"I didn't expect to win the gold, especially since I was in lane 8,’’ said Hafnaoui after his victory.

"In the second half of the race, I felt better, and it was a great battle at the end. It is so amazing, I didn’t expect that, I’m so happy!’’

He then took part to the 800 m freestyle, but failed to qualify for the final.

Hafnaoui became the first Tunisian Olympic champion in swimming since Oussama Mellouli had won gold in 1 500m freestyle at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 and in 10 km open water in London 2012.

After his Olympic title, Hafnaoui climbed on the podium at the Short Course World Championships winning silver in the 1 500m freestyle with an African record: 14:06:88.

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