Michael Phelps praised Ahmed Hafnaoui for his “unbelievable swimming” on Sunday, saying the 18-year-old Tunisian’s surprising victory in the 400m freestyle was a great example of how swimming events are likely in the Tokyo Games have open disputes.
Hafnaoui had the worst time among the finalists, but, from lane eight, he beat Australian Jack McLoughlin and American Kieran Smith to take a shocking victory.
“Unbelievable swimming, I think he took almost five seconds off his PR (personal record),” Phelps told reporters in Tokyo. “The difference between this Olympics and the past, in my opinion, is that every person in the final has a chance of winning the gold — it doesn’t matter if you’re in lane one, eight or four, everyone’s close,” he added.
“See the 400IM (individual medley), less than a second between the first and the eighth just to reach the final. I feel like the globe is starting to move and swim faster and for me it’s fun to watch. It’s amazing to see children grow and achieve their goals.”
Phelps retired –for the second time– after the Rio 2016 Games with the impressive mark of 23 gold medals on his resume, and granted the interview as part of one of his new roles, as ambassador for official Olympic timekeeper Omega.
“It’s a challenge,” the 36-year-old said of his “civilian” life. “It’s unexpected, it’s something you don’t know. Swimming was all I’ve known for so long, so when I step out of the sport into the real world, I’ll have experiences that open my eyes. But I think it’s through the things you experience in your life that gives you the knowledge to go on”.