Copy of 2024-05-08T002745Z_708403885_RC2846AG08PO_RTRMADP_3_OLYMPICS-2024-SWIMMING-HAFNAOUI-1715167132634
Tunisia's Ahmed Hafnaoui in action during the men's 1500m freestyle heat 4 of World Aquatics Championships at Aspire Dome, Doha, Qatar on February 17. Image Credit: Reuters

Paris: Olympic 400 metres freestyle champion Ahmed Hafnaoui will miss the Paris Games, Africa Aquatics (AA) said on Tuesday.

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The continental governing body said on its website the 21-year-old Tunisian had confirmed local media reports that he would not swim at the July 26-August 11 Games.

AA’s report said Hafnaoui had declined to resume training in the United States where he was previously based but did not provide details.

However, Tunisian Olympic Committee president Mehrez Boussayene told Reuters Hafnaoui’s participation in Paris has not been fully decided yet, adding that he has suffered an injury that requires him to rest for 45 days.

Boussayene also said Hafnaoui has many other international obligations ahead of him, calling on sports fans to “change their views of champions and treat them humanely”.

“One of our duties as officials is to protect and care for athletes,” he said.

Focus on recovery

Hafnaoui’s mother Amira said her son’s main focus right now is his recovery.

“Ahmed’s absence from the Paris Olympics has not yet been confirmed. Even if he is absent, Ahmed is an Olympic champion and has achieved international recognition despite his young age, and there is still a long way to go before him to achieve the best.” “The priority currently is his physical and mental health,” she added.

Hafnaoui had trained in California late last year under former US team head coach Mark Schubert, who runs an elite distance swimming programme in Orange County.

However, he told reporters at the World Championships in Doha in February that he had returned home to Tunisia, citing a visa issue.

Slowest qualifier

In 2021 at the age of 18, Hafnaoui stunned the world by winning the 400m freestyle gold from lane eight at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics after being the slowest qualifier in the final.

He claimed the 800m and 1,500m freestyle titles at last year’s World Championships in Fukuoka and was runner-up in the 400m behind Australia’s Sam Short.

However, he failed to reach the final in all three events at the last World Championships in Doha in February.