Indiana swim and dive's 20-year-old Tunisian sensation Ahmed Hafnaoui wasn't quite done with dazzling swims at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Japan, despite already earning two medals in his first two men's freestyle events July 23 and 26.
On July 23, Hafnaoui broke the African record with the fifth-fastest swim all-time in the men's 400-meter to land silver just 0.02 seconds behind gold-medalist Australian Samuel Short. Three days later, on July 26, Hafnaoui swam the third-fastest-ever 800-meter to win his first-career world title.
The three swimmers right behind Hafnaoui by order of place: 19-year-old Short, United States' 23-year-old Bobby Finke and Ireland's 22-year-old Daniel Wiffen, even individually broke the Oceanian, American and European records in the 800-meter event, respectively.
As Hafnaoui returned for the men's 1500-meter Sunday evening in Japan (Sunday morning EST), the 20-year-old's time of 14:31.54 smashed the race's World Championship record of 14:32.80 previously set by Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri last summer. Hafnaoui's swim was the second-fastest-ever in the event.
Heading into the turn for the final 100 meters, Hafnaoui and Finke were the lone two swimmers dueling for gold. Hafnaoui out-touched silver-medalist Finke — who had won gold in the 800 and 1500-meter races in the most recent 2021 Toyko Olympics — by just 0.05 seconds.
Finke also won gold in the 800 and silver in the 1500-meter at last summer’s 2022 World Championships. Finke’s time of 14:31.59 Sunday shattered his previous American record by roughly five seconds and likewise surpassed Paltrinieri’s 1500-meter record.
Hafnaoui ended the Championships picking up two gold medals and one silver, one-third of the nine medals total by the program's current and former swimmers and divers. United States national champion in the women’s 50, 100 and 200-meter breaststroke and former collegiate swimmer at Indiana, Lilly King, earned silver in the 50-meter event Sunday on the final day in Japan.
King placed fourth in the final for the 100 and 200-meter races earlier in the week and, in the 50-meter, placed 0.78 seconds behind 26-year-old Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte, whose 29.16-second swim set the world record. Meilutyte won gold in the 100-meter breaststroke final Tuesday, identical to wins in the 50 and 100-meter events last November at the 2022 FINA Swimming World Cup. King placed second in those two World Cup events and won the 200-meter breaststroke.
Following the 50-meter race, King competed in the women’s 4x100-meter medley relay to round out the Championships events. As the Americans and Australians were nearly tied after the first backstroke leg, King delivered an outstanding breaststroke leg to distance the U.S. from the the field. The U.S. went on to comfortably win gold, with an impactful contribution from King.
Earlier this week, current Indiana 20-year-old juniors Anna Peplowski and Josh Matheny earned medals for their preliminary contributions in the women's 4x200-meter freestyle relay and the men's 4x100-meter medley relay, and mixed 4x100-meter medley relay, respectively.
Peplowski anchored the last leg as the U.S. posted the best qualifying time for the final and four new swimmers won silver. Matheny and fellow U.S. swimmers likewise had the best qualifying time in the heat stages for both the men's 4x100-meter medley relay and mixed medley relay finals.
The substitute swimmers broke the World Championships record in the men's relay, which earned Matheny gold. The new swimmers in the mixed 4x100-meter medley relay placed third, granting Matheny bronze. Like Hafnaoui, Peplowski and Matheny combined for one-third of Indiana's medals at the World Championships, which ended Sunday morning EST, July 30.