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Tokyo Olympics | Tunisia’s Hafnaoui strikes gold

Top-notch quartet: Australia's world record setters in the 4x100m freestyle: Bronte Campbell, Meg Harris, Emma Mckeon and Cate Campbell.   | Photo Credit: ATTILA KISBENEDEK

Tunisia and Japan celebrated unexpected golds on the opening day of swimming events before normal service was resumed with the Australian women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team smashing its own world record on the way to the title in Tokyo.

Chase Kalisz settled American nerves by delivering the country’s first gold of these Games, winning the men’s 400m medley as part of a US one-two with Jay Litherland.

On a day of surprises, Tunisian teenager Ahmed Hafnaoui pulled off the biggest shock of all with a stunning victory in the men’s 400m freestyle.

The 18-year-old, the slowest qualifier, produced a blistering finish to pip Australia’s Jack McLoughlin to gold with a time of 3:43.36s, American Kieran Smith taking bronze.

Hafnaoui’s gold is only the fifth by a Tunisian athlete at the Olympics, but its 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.

Japan’s Yui Ohashi won the women’s 400m medley in 4:32.08s. American Emma Weyant took the silver 0.68s behind and compatriot Hali Flickinger took the bronze.

While it was a disappointing day for Australia in the men’s events, the women set a world record of 3:29.69s in the 4x100m freestyle relay, with Canada taking silver, 3:09 behind the winners, and the United States in bronze position.

The quartet of sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell, Meg Harris and Emma McKeon ensured a third straight gold in the event for Australia, taking 0.36 off the previous record of 3:30.05 set in April 2018.

Maana, Srihari out

Meanwhile, Indian swimmers Maana Patel and Srihari Nataraj made their debut in the 100m backstroke heats. However, neither could progress to semifinals.

Maana and Nataraj, together with Sajan Prakash in the 200m freestyle, 100m and 200m butterfly, make up the largest Indian swimming contingent since 2008, when four swimmers qualified.

Maana, who qualified via the universality quota and who was racing at her first Olympics, swam a time of 1:05.20 in the 100m backstroke. “I am pretty happy because it was my best time. Going into the heat I was really fidgety and shivering. All the emotions piled up and I was overwhelmed,” the 21-year old said after her race.

Srihari placed fifth in his heat in a time of 54.31s. “It was fine and not so great at the same time. I felt ready for the race but I didn’t feel like it clicked. Maybe I let the pressure get to me. I am disappointed but I can live with it,” he said after his race.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 8:40:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/tokyo-olympics-tunisias-hafnaoui-strikes-gold/article35527972.ece

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