Katie Grimes, Ahmed Hafnaoui Top 1500 Freestyle at TYR Pro Swim Series Fort Lauderdale

Katie Grimes -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Katie Grimes, Ahmed Hafnaoui Top 1500 Freestyle at TYR Pro Swim Series Fort Lauderdale

Distance swimmers had the competition pool to themselves Wednesday evening in Fort Lauderdale as the second stop of this year’s TYR Pro Swim Series got underway. Before prelims-finals competition begins Thursday, the 1500 freestyle was the lone event on the schedule for the meet’s first session, and the results included a dominant win for 17-year-old Katie Grimes in the women’s event and a strong swim for Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui, now training at Indiana University, in the men’s race.

Katie Ledecky, the dominant swimmer in the world in the women’s mile over the last decade, is racing this week in Fort Lauderdale but skipped the 30-lap race this time, leaving Grimes by herself with a sub-16:00 entry time. Grimes is already the ninth-fastest performer in history and fourth-fastest American after winning silver behind Ledecky at the 2022 World Championships, and in this race, she posted a mark of 15:56.27, just over 11 seconds off her lifetime best of 15:44.89. Only four swimmers (including Ledecky and Grimes) surpassed that mark at last year’s World Championships, so even Grimes’ early-season results are elite.

A pair of her teammates with the Sandpipers of Nevada placed second and third, respectively. Bella Sims touched in 16:19.29, followed by Claire Weinstein in 16:26.50. Both teens were within four seconds of their personal-best marks. Sarasota’s Michaela Mattes was the top non-Sandpipers swimmer in the race, taking fourth in 16:29.88.

Meanwhile, the men’s race saw Hafnaoui, the 2021 Olympic gold medalist in the 400 free, post a negative-split by a large margin as he nearly joined the sub-15:00 club for the first time. He was behind Egypt’s Marwan El Kamash and former Florida Gator Bobby Finke at the halfway point, when he flipped in 7:34.57, but Hafnaoui immediately accelerated, and he hit his stride just after the 900-meter mark, improving from 30-second splits to 29-mid splits for most of the remaining portion of the race.

A final surge to the wall helped Hafnaoui touch in 15:00.24, beating his previous best of 15:07.07 by almost six seconds. Hafnaoui has not yet raced the 1500 free at a major long course competition, but he did swim the event at the Short Course World Championships in December 2021, less than five months after winning his 400 free Olympic gold, and he won silver. Hafnaoui could be targeting the 800 and 1500 to add to his program as he prepares for an international return after hardly competing in 2022.

El Kamash placed second in 15:01.26, and Finke, the Olympic gold medalist and American-record holder in the event, took third in 15:02.54. Wales’ Daniel Jervis, who was seventh in the 1500 free at last year’s World Championships, took fourth in 15:07.20, while U.S. Olympian Michael Brinegar was fifth in 15:11.49.


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