Hafnaoui Fends Off Finke By 0.05sec For 1500 Victory & Distance Double A Slither Shy Of WR
Ahmed Hafnaoui, the 6ft 5 Olympic 400m champion, fell just shy of the World record with a 14:31.54 win by just 0.05sec over Olympic champion Bobby Finke in a boiling 1500m freestyle that landed the Tunisian ace the 800-1500 double at the 20th World Championships came to a frenetic end in Fukuoka.
Dolphin Sam Short, in lane 7, had set a fast pace at the helm of battle, whistling inside World-record pace by 1.73secs at 400m on 3:49.77 and maintaining the lead until the 1000m mark. Hafnaoiu and Finke in lanes 3 and 4 fought stroke for stroke not far back enough for the Australian to feel he might do what absent Italian title holder Gregorio Paltrinieri did a year ago in Budapest.
Finke took the lead at the 100m mark, Short started to struggle soon after as Hafnaoui caught Finke within light at the end of the tunnel. The Tunisian split the last turn 0.03 inside the world-record pace of the disgraced Sun Yang*, Finke just 0.09 away. Cue the sprint finish. Would Hafnaoui be “Finked” or would Finke be Hafnaoui-ed. The latter prevailed as Finke, famous for the blistering finishes that delivered 800 and 1500m Olympic gold in Tokyo, split 26.19 and Hafnaoui 26.23 for victory.
The second fastest ever, Hafnaoui’s time established an African record inside the 14:37.28 in which his fellow Tunisian Ousamma Mellouli claimed the Olympic crown in 2008. Finke’s 14:31.59 and American record for No3 all-time.
Short, the 400m champion on day 1 in Fukuoka, hung for the bronze in 14:37.28, leaving Daniel Wiffen one place shy once more, after fourth in the 800m, of becoming the first Irish swimmer to make the medals at a World Championships, his 14:43.01 ahead of Germany’s Lukas Martens, on 14:44.51.
Hafnaoui’s progress in the 1500 is remarkable in terms of the pathway to the World title. In 2019 at 16, he had a best time off 15:16.04. Fine for one so young. Then nothing. This year, he swam three efforts between 15:07.07 and his best time of 15:00.85.
The 21-year-old’s heats time of 14:49.53 was a big best time. To emerge from a final 18 seconds faster as the second fastest 1500 swimmer ever behind one of the biggest controversies of all time in swimming is astonishing.
Hafnaoui’s win in the 400m at Tokyo two years ago was one of the biggest upsets of the Games. His double in Fukuoka is no less striking, despite the sharp short-course times he’s posted over 1500 in the absence of long-course efforts in the years between 16 and 21.
Hafnaoui said that he’d been working on the 800 and 1500 for Fukuoka. It showed. He’s the third man afterAustralian Grant Hackett (2003-2005 in midst of a record four 1500 crowns, 98-01-03-05) and the sunken Sun (2011-13) to claim the 800-1500 double.
The Result in Full:
The race went without Paltrinieri, the Italian 2016 Olympic champion, and Florian Wellbrock, the German double gold medallist in the 10km and then 5km in Fukuoka last week but unable to back up in there 800 and 1500 in the pool this week.
Finke emerged from the fray to say that Sun’s record is 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.”Bobby Finke, Photo by Patrick B. Kraemer
“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 secon