Tokyo Olympics swimming: Ahmed Hafnaoui, Yui Ohashi create ripples; Srihari Nataraj finishes 27th, Maana Patel 39th

Ahmed Hafnaoui of Tunisia surprises the field in 400m freestyle to take the gold medal. Japan’s Yui Ohashi was another surprise winner in the women’s 400m individual medley.

Ahmed Hafnaoui of Team Tunisia celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 400m freestyle final at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

Srihari Nataraj finished 27th overall out of 40 swimmers after clocking 54.31 in the men’s 100m backstroke event at the Tokyo Olympics Aquatics centre on Sunday. The 20-year-old swimmer finished fifth in Heat 3.

Maana Patel finished 39th in a field of 41 swimmers with a timing of 1:50.20 in the women’s 100m backstroke. She finished second out of three swimmers in Heat 1. Both the swimmers couldn’t better their personal best on Sunday. While Srihari Nataraj has a personal best of 53.77, Maana Patel holds the national record with a timing of 1:02.73.

Little known Ahmed Hafnaoui (Tunisia) and Yui Ohashi provided the thunder as they came through with upset wins over fancied rivals in the men’s 400m freestyle and women’s 400m individual medley finals at the Tokyo Olympics Aquatics centre.

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The four-final card of the day did not go on expected lines as the Tunisian and Japanese swimmers came up with a superb showing even as the Australian quartet of Bronte Campbell, Mag Harris, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell powered to a new world record in the women’s 400m freestyle relay.

Yui Ohashi of Japan celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women's 400m individual medley at the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.   -  AP

 

The other gold medal was collared by American Chase Kaisz who touched ahead of compatriot Jay Litherland and Brendon Smith (Australia) for the gold medal in the men’s 400m individual medley final to open his country’s medal tally after the United States had gone without a medal on Saturday – the first time for such a thing to happen since Munich 1972.

The rather surprising failure of favourite Daiya Seto (Japan) to make it to the final from the heats on Saturday had suddenly left open the field in the men’s medley event and Chase took it upon himself to emerge the winner in 4:09.72.

The oldest American swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal, the 27-year-old had trailed in third place through the first half of the butterfly leg before he moved up the ladder after backstroke and cruised to finish beyond the reach of Litherland who was timed at 4:10.28 for the silver, ahead of Smith who came back in 4:10.38.

Hafnaoui was lucky to get into the 400m free final in eighth place on Saturday night, so the focus was clearly on Aussie Jack McLoughlin and American Kieran Smith. In fact, it was Italian Gabriele Detti who started off well and lead through the first 150m. However, Hafnaoui kept himself in the hunt as he slightly trailed his Aussie rival through the remaining part of the race until he pulled off his knockout punch in the very last lap of the eight-lap race. Even the 18-year-old looked surprised as he finished in a career-best time of 3:43.32, marginally ahead of Loughlin (3:43.52). Smith, who eventually took the bronze, clocked 3:43.94.

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If an eerie silence followed Tunisia’s first swimming gold medal since Beijing 2008, Ohashi gave a further twist to the morning session as she helped herself to the top of the podium in the women’s medley final. In 2015, Oshashi had been diagnosed with acute anaemia and had thought about quitting the sport after she finished a poor 40th in that year’s Japanese National championships.

It had been a virtual struggle for the 25-year-old since then, but she showed no strains this morning as she kept herself well within striking distance through the first four laps before surging ahead. Ohashi was in a class of her own as she took the lead at the start of the breaststroke leg and maintained her top position as she finished in 4:32.08, ahead of Americans Emma Weyant (4:34.90) and Hali Flickinger (4:35.13).

The pre-race favourite and reigning champion Katinka Hosszu (Hungary) finished a distant fifth. On Saturday night itself, Hosszu looked off colour as she barely made it to the final, taking the seventh place overall.

There was no stopping the fiery Aussie foursome in the women’s 400m freestyle relay as they powered their way to the top straightaway before finishing in a new world record of 3:29.69 and streets ahead of Canada, which took silver at 3:32.78. The United States took the bronze, further behind at 3:32.81.

Srihari Nataraj of Team India competes in Heat 3 of the men's 100m backstroke at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Sunday.   -  Getty Images

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