DOHA: Olympic champion Ahmed Hafnaoui’s World Championships got off to a poor start as the Tunisian bombed out of the 400 metres freestyle on day one, but breaststroke king Adam Peaty eased through on his return to the global event. Bidding for a 400-800-1,500 treble of world titles, Hafnaoui ranked 17th in the 400 heats with a time of three minutes 48.05 seconds – nearly eight seconds adrift of his silver medal-winning swim at last year’s event in Fukuoka. The 21-year-old appeared nonplussed as he exited the Aspire Dome pool in Doha and declined to talk to reporters. He will bid to defend his 800 and 1,500m freestyle titles later in the meet. Australia’s former world champion Elijah Winnington topped qualifying for the 400 final later on Sunday with a time of 3:44.37, ahead of Germany’s Fukuoka bronze medallist Lukas Maertens. World record holder Peaty cruised into the 100m breaststroke semi-finals, qualifying third behind American Nic Fink (59.19 seconds) and Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi in a strong field despite the absence of Chinese world champion Qin Haiyang. A slew of top swimmers have skipped Doha to focus on their Olympic preparations, but Briton Peaty is using the event as a stepping stone on the road to his bid for a third successive 100m gold at the Paris Games. Peaty, who missed last year’s World Championships in Fukuoka while on a mental health break, and the 2022 event in Budapest due to a broken foot, posted a time of 59.34 seconds in his heat. “Very good start. You never know coming into these world championships, especially in February,” Peaty told Reuters.