World Championships, Day Eight Finals: Ahmed Hafnaoui Edges Bobby Finke By 0.05 To Win 1500 Free; 2nd All-Time

Bobby Finke of the United States of America, silver, Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia, gold, Samuel Short of Australia, bronze show the medals after competing in the 1500m Freestyle Men Final during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 30th, 2023.
L-R: Bobby Finke, Ahmed Hafnaoui & Sam Short: Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Ahmed Hafnaoui swam the second-fastest 1500 free in history in 14:31.54 to edge Bobby Finke by 0.05secs and become the third man to have completed the 800-1500 double in World Championships history.

Australian Sam Short went out at an eye-watering pace with Hafnaoui and Finke in a two-man duel behind him,  the American taking over the lead at 1000m.

Hafnaoui struck out at 1200m and was 0.03 inside world-record pace at the final turn where he led Finke by 0.09 to herald a sprint finish and got the touch despite the Olympic champion going 26.19 to 26.23 down the last 50.

The 20-year-old had never even been inside 15mins before Fukuoka, his previous best 15:00.24 from the TYR Pro Series Fort Lauderdale in March before his 14:49.53 prelim.

Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia reacts after winning the gold medal in the 1500m Freestyle Men Final during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 30th, 2023.

Ahmed Hafnaoui: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

He eclipsed Gregorio Paltrinieri’s championship mark of 14:32.80 en-route to gold at Budapest 2022 while also taking 5.74secs from fellow Tunisian Ous Mellouli’s 14:37.28 African record from the 2009 worlds.

Finke – winner of the Olympic 800/1500 double – set an American record of 14:31.59 to go third all-time with Short going 14:37.28 for bronze.

It was the first time since 2009 that no European has been on the podium with Paltrinieri and Florian Wellbrock sharing the last four titles.

Neither man was in the Marine Messe pool on Sunday, the Italian having withdrawn citing fitness issues and Wellbrock finishing 20th in prelims,

Dan Wiffen, seeking to become the first Irish swimmer to reach a long-course world podium, replicated his 800 fourth in 14:43.01 ahead of Lukas Martens (14:44.51), Kristof Rasovszky (14:51.46) and Mykhailo Romanchuk (14:53.21).

Short started the race with 400 gold and 800 silver and he set a blistering pace, reaching 400 1.73secs inside world-record pace in 3:49.77, behind him Hafnaoui and Finke separated by 0.30.

Come the halfway point and Short still led in 7:15.63, Finke having gone into second in 7:16.69 ahead of Hafnaoui in 7:17.06.

Finke took over the lead at 1000m as 0.17 separated the American, Short and Hafnaoui.

After trading the lead, Hafnaoui went ahead at 1200, with a 0.21 lead over Finke and with 100 to go, the margin was 0.32.

Finke, though, came back and a 28.92 penultimate 50 guided him to within 0.09 as he moved on to the shoulder of the Tunisian who wasn’t to be beaten.

Hafnaoui Joins Hackett And Sun

Before today, only Grant Hackett and Sun Yang – subsequently banned for doping offences – had won the 800 and 1500 at the same worlds since the 16-length event was introduced at Fukuoka 2001.

Hackett completed the double in 2003 and 2005 with the Chinese taking the titles in 2011 and 2013.

Having also claimed silver in the 400 free – in which he’s the Olympic champion – Hafnaoui leaves Fukuoka with three medals.

It comes 14 years after countryman Mellouli won the longest race in the pool at the 2009 World Championships.

Hafnaoui said:

“Bobby pushed me to do that. I know he has the fastest finish, and I was trying to build my finish from the last 100. And I was successful. I thank Bobby for that. He pushed me to the do the championship record.”

Of the last 50:

“I was saying to myself, no I’m not going to do the same mistake as the 400 finish. I’m going to battle to the end and do the finish.

“I was next to Bobby and I saw him most of the time. I know he has the fastest finish.”

Bobby Finke of the United States of America shows the silver medal after competing in the 1500m Freestyle Men Final during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 30th, 2023.

Bobby Finke: Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Finke said:

“I was just focusing on trying to hang with the guys and catch up with Sam, because he was out very quick. I didn’t think he was going to be the person who was going to be the rabbit at the beginning. I thought it was going to be more so Lukas (Martens) and Daniel (Wiffen), but it still really panned out in a really great way.

“I didn’t know it was going to be between us until maybe the 750. Sam was still right next to us, so I thought at that point it was going to be the three of us in a bit of a dogfight.

“But we were able to get past Sam and focus on Ahmed because he’s a great distance swimmer. He goes 14:10 in short-course meters, so he has the endurance. I know he has the finishing speed. So I knew at that point it could be really close.

“I think we pushed each other (off the final wall) and that’s always a good thing for ourselves and for our team and for the sport. Just push each other as much as we can to go the best times that we can.”

Sun’s world record of 14:31.02 set back at the 2012 Olympics in London stands for some time yet but for Finke it’s an achievable goal.

“The world record is always a goal, no matter what. I don’t really care what my time is before. If I’ve got to drop five seconds, so be it, 10 seconds, 15 seconds.

“I think that was Hafnaoui’s second time only under 15. So he went from dropping 15 seconds to dropping another 15 seconds. I don’t really have a point within the last two years where I thought the world record was unachievable.”

Short Eyes Progress On Path To Paris

Short now has four medals across two World Championships – having also won 4×2 silver in Budapest – weeks before he claimed the Commonwealth 1500m title at 18.

He said:

“I won the 400 earlier in the week and I took that 800 earlier in the week out very fast as well. I had nothing to lose  going into this 1500, because I don’t think anyone expected me to get on the podium on this one.

“I took it out sub-3:50 at the 400, which I don’t know if that’s been done before. May not be the smartest action, but it paid off in the end.

“There’s so many areas that I can improve in the 1,500. I’m not very experienced. Skill-wise, I’m still pretty poor. I get beaten on all the turns by Ahmed and Bobby. I think come next year, I’ll be better.”

Samuel Short of Australia competes in the Men's Freestyle 1500m Heats during the 20th World Aquatics Championships at the Marine Messe Hall A in Fukuoka (Japan), July 25th, 2023.

Sam Short: Photo Courtesy: Andrea Masini / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Of the medallists, the Australian is the youngest at 19 with Hafnaoui 20 and Finke the oldest at 23 while fourth-placed Wiffen is 22.

There’s plenty of room for progress, Short saying:

“I’m still new to the international field in the 1,500. I’m only 19, so more experience will do me good. I kind of got to the 800 and I really started to hurt from taking it out hard, but I was expecting that. I managed that quite well I think.

“I knew those boys were going to have tremendous back ends, which they did. They came home incredibly fast. I probably didn’t die as bad as it looked, and that’s why I got the bronze medal.”

Wiffen finished 8.90secs outside his 14:34.91 PB from the Swim Open Stockholm in April, days after he was locked out of the 800 medals by one place and 0.52 in a European record of 7:39.19.

He said:

“I think I knew how the race was going to play out. I basically just wasn’t good enough to keep up with the pace.

“I’m just going to go back to training. I’ve got a vengeance now because I wanted to win that race and I didn’t. I’m going to go back to training, have U-23s in Dublin, post some fast times there and then prep for Paris.”



2023-07-30 (2)

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