Ahmed Hafnaoui captured Tunisia's first medal at the 2021 Olympics thanks to his victory in the men's 400-meter freestyle.
Hafnaoui won a thriller by passing Jack McLoughlin right at the very end of the race. Kieran Smith of the United States was hot on their heels to take home the bronze medal.
There was very little separation between the top three finishers. Hafnaoui reached the finish line in 3:43.36, just .16 seconds ahead of McLoughlin and .58 seconds in front of Smith.
WHAT A FINISH.<br><br>From lane 8, Tunisia's Ahmed Hafnaoui wins Olympic gold and <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamUSA</a>'s Kieran Smith gets the bronze. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a><br><br>📺 NBC<br>💻 <a href="https://t.co/5UYl3veBXr">https://t.co/5UYl3veBXr</a><br>📱 NBC Sports App <a href="https://t.co/7it1V0dFKm">pic.twitter.com/7it1V0dFKm</a>
Men's 400M Freestyle Swimming Results
Gold: Ahmed Hafnaoui (Tunisia), 3:43.36
Silver: Jack McLoughlin (Australia), 3:43.52
Bronze: Kieran Smith (United States), 3:43.94
4th: Henning Muhlleitner (Germany), 3:44.07
5th: Felix Auboeck (Austria), 3:44.07
6th: Gabriele Detti (Italy), 3:44.88
7th: Elijah Winnington (Australia), 3:45.20
8th: Jake Mitchell (United States), 3:45.39
Hafnaoui was off the radar coming into the final. He advanced to this stage after posting the eighth-fastest time in qualifying (3:45.68). The 18-year-old came within .14 seconds of not even making the field.
Once the final began, Hafnaoui appeared to find his bearings. But it wasn't initially clear that he would be the one triumphant at the end.
Elijah Winnington was on a world-record pace off the block. The Australian made the first turn in 25.41 seconds, nearly one full second ahead of the record pace (26.29). He remained in the top spot after the 150-meter mark before falling off in the second half.
McLoughlin had an incredibly smooth run from the second lane, leading by as much as .35 seconds over Hafnaoui after 300 meters. It was at that point when the Tunisian sensation really kicked things into gear.
Hafnaoui erased .04 seconds off McLoughlin's lead over the next 50 meters before turning on the jets down the final stretch to get the win.
The final margin of victory for Hafnaoui is the second-smallest in the men's 400 meter freestyle since 1996 (Mack Horton beat Sun Yang by .13 seconds in 2016).
Hafnaoui's win makes him just the second men's swimmer from Tunisia with an Olympic gold medal. Oussama Mellouli won the men's 1500-meter freestyle and 10-kilometer marathon at the 2012 Games in London.
Competing in his second Olympics, McLoughlin had a much better showing this time around. He missed out on the final in the 1500-meter freestyle in 2016 with a ninth-place finish in the heat.
Smith, a senior at the University of Florida, had a lot of momentum coming into Tokyo. He qualified for this event by winning the Olympic trial by more than three seconds in June.
The Gators star is the first American to medal in the men's 400-meter freestyle since Peter Vanderkaay won bronze in 2012.