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In 2019, Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui told French outlet La Presse that his ultimate goal was to win an Olympic gold medal.
At that time, however, he was thinking about the Paris Summer Games in 2024.
The 18-year-old was just supposed to be gaining some much-needed Olympic experience in 2020, but apparently he decided to move up his timeline.
Hafnaoui was first to the wall in a star-studded 400-metre freestyle final on Sunday morning in Tokyo, just out-touching Australia’s Jack McLoughlin.
His reaction when he looked up to see what he had just accomplished was exactly what makes the Olympic Games so great. Raw emotion exploded from the Tunisian. Screams of utter joy filled the fan-less swimming complex as he pounded the water with his fists.
What the Olympics are all about! This reaction is gold medal worthy 🥇
Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia with a surprise 🥇 win in the men's 400m freestyle 🇹🇳
Watch all the #Tokyo2020 swimming action live: https://t.co/ZtaZRWQNM1 pic.twitter.com/KbmmhIvWiT
— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) July 25, 2021
Not only did his win astonish the swimming world, but he also shocked himself.
"Of course I was surprised with myself," Hafnaoui told reporters after the swim. "It's unbelievable."
And when you look at where he was ranked heading into the Games, “unbelievable” might not even do his accomplishment justice.
Just two years ago, the youngster was ranked 100th in the world. Coming into the Games, he was ranked 16th and was the last man into Sunday’s final after swimming a personal best in the prelims.
Again, he was supposed to just be happy to be there. Instead, from way outside in lane eight, he pulled off the biggest upset of the Olympics thus far.
— Olympics (@Olympics) July 25, 2021
As a result, he became just the second-ever gold medalist swimmer from his home country, while also securing the fifth gold in Tunisia’s history.
Now an Olympic champion, when the Paris Games roll around in 2024, Hafnaoui will no longer be dreaming of winning a gold medal — he will be hoping to defend one.
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