20-year-old Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui — who will make his collegiate debut for Indiana's swim and dive team this fall — captured his first-ever world title in the men's 800-meter freestyle Wednesday EST at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Japan.
Hafnaoui and 19-year-old Australian Samuel Short were tied heading into the turn for the last 50 meters. Hafnaoui, however, swam the final 50-meter split in an incredible 26.24 seconds to pull ahead of Short for gold. Hafnaoui's time of 7:37.00 is the third-fastest ever in the event.
Behind Hafnaoui, second-place Short set an Australian record, bronze-medalist Bobby Finke broke the United States record and Ireland's fourth-place finisher Daniel Wiffen set the new European record. The four times in the event are top-10 all-time, per an IU Athletics release.
On Sunday, Hafnaoui had barely missed gold, placing 0.02 seconds behind Short in the 400-meter men's freestyle — an event in which Hafnaoui won gold at the most recent Tokyo Olympics. Despite losing by two-hundredths, Hafnaoui's silver medal time set the African record, was the fifth-fastest all-time and beat his previous Olympic-gold time by roughly three seconds.
Hafnaoui’s gold-medal performance Wednesday morning marks the first Indiana men’s swimmer to win gold at the World Championships since Zach Apple and Blake Pieroni did so for the United States in 2019 — swimming in the mixed 4x100-meter freestyle relay, per release.
Rising Indiana junior swimmer Josh Matheny received bronze with the United States Wednesday morning EST in the similar 4x100-meter mixed medley relay. Matheny had swam in Tuesday’s EST preliminary, where the U.S. had the best qualifying time for the final. Four new American swimmers substituted for Matheny and the preliminary group and won bronze.
On Monday, Matheny swam in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke. The 20-year-old placed second nationally in the event in June and seventh in the final in Japan. In the women’s 100-meter breaststroke final Tuesday, 100-meter national champion and Indiana Swim Club’s Lilly King placed fourth. King won her semifinal heat by 0.57 seconds faster than her final swim.
Rising senior Tomer Frankel swam in the men's 4x100-meter relay on Sunday with Israel, the nation’s first relay team to qualify for a final at the World Championships, per release. Frankel started the first leg as Israel placed seventh. Frankel also posted his best personal time of 23.48 in the men’s 50-meter butterfly, finishing 22nd overall in the combined heat stages.
Indiana junior Ching Hwee Gan, representing Singapore, placed 14th in the women’s 1500-meter freestyle and won her heat Sunday. Gan broke her national record set this past April by roughly 11 seconds. Gan, as well as other Indiana swimmers like Hafnaoui, King and Matheny, will swim in more freestyle and breaststroke events over the next few days in Japan.