Hafnaoui Tops Historic 800 With 7:37.00 African Textile Mark Ahead Of Oceania, American & European Records By Short, Finke & Wiffen

2023-07-26 Reading Time: 2 minutes
Ahmed Hafnaoiu of Tunisia celebrates 800 victory at the 20th World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, (Photo by Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK)

Billed as one of the thrillers of the 20th Championships, the 800m freestyle did not disappoint on the way to gold for Olympic 400m champion Ahmed Hafnaoui in an African textile record (but not a Tunisian record) of 7:37.00, the silver gone in an Oceania record to Sam Short, 400m champion ahead of Hafnaoui in Fukuoka, and Olympic champion Bobby Finke in an American record.

Short’s 7:37.76 was inside the Oceania record set by Grant Hackett at 7:38.65 for the 2005 World title in 2005. Finke on 7:38.67 topped the American standard he set at 7:39.36 in Budapest a year ago. Then came Daniel Wiffen in a European and Irish record of 7:39.19, an historic moment in the mix of several, and Germany’s Luka Märtens fifth in 7:39.48.

The new Aussie record holder said: “Obviously, I’m moving in the right direction. That was set nearly 20 years ago so it shows Australia coming back. It’s always been there and I’m just glad to progress it. Grant is one of my heroes. I looked up to him my whole life. I could’ve come third or fourth with the time, I still would have been happy. So I love the race and I love the result.”

Short still has the 1500m freestyle to come on Sunday but his main goal is Paris next year: “I’m mainly just believing in myself and knowing I can match it with the best. I’m the youngest in the field right there. I can still push the pace and make them work for it. (I’ve learnt) that the hard work pays off. I work my absolute bum off and I get the results in the pool.”

Short, Hafnaoui, the first Tunisian to claim Olympic golden the pool two years ago in Tokyo, and Märtens, the 400m podium placers in Fukuoka, raced in the middle lanes inside world-record pace from go to the 300m mark, with Finke and Wiffen battling either side just below the red line marking then global swiftest.

The picture stayed the same from there to the 700m mark, barring the pace in relation to 2009 and the shiny suits era: by 400m all had slipped below the speed of China’s Zhang Lin and his otherworldly 2009 shiny suit standard of 7:32.12. The closest to that ever was the closest to Zhang on the day, Oussama Mellouli, also off Tunisian, who holds the African record yet at 7:35.27.

With 100m of the Fukuoka fight to go, Finke remained in fourth just shy of a second down on the lead pace, ever present the threat of a repeat of the killer-whale finishes he made his signature at the Tokyo Olympics for double 800-1500 gold.

Hafnaoui and Short had doubtless noticed the art of Finke and this day splashed it on the canvas of their own success with rippling speed over the last 100m. But only Hafnaoiu found enough in the tank for a scorching 26.24 last length, to 27.16 for Short and 26.79 for Finke, Wiffen producing the second swiftest homecomer, 26.70, to overhaul Martens, on 28, and deliver the best result in the history of Irish swimmers at World Championships.

Make way for another epic in the 1500m at the weekend!

The Result in full:

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