By now it reads like some rambunctious farce, this passage dated December 22, from Tunisia Online News: "President Ben Ali was reserved a warm and enthusiastic welcome by the citizens and sportspeople who attended national champion Oussama Mellouli's welcome ceremony, chanting long life to Tunisia and its President and voicing consideration and gratitude to the Head of State for the success Tunisia is constantly achieving in all sectors, notably in sports, thanks to the sound national choices."
That was a Wednesday, fewer than 72 hours after Mellouli had used the Fina World Swimming Championships in Dubai to cement his mastery of the 1,500m freestyle.
He had churned through the dreamy-blue water of the new Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex easily ahead of Denmark's silver medallist Mads Glaesner and Hungary's bronze medallist Gergely Gyurta.
He had previously won the 1,500 in the 2008 Summer Olympics, where two herniated discs had not derailed his trek to becoming the first African male gold-medallist in an individual Olympic swimming event. Back then in Beijing, the shock win from a swimmer fresh from an 18-month doping suspension had ended a four-Olympics Australian dynasty in the 1,500 and led Mellouli to proclaim "redemption".
By December in Dubai, his widely expected win had come in 14mins 24.19secs, and he had upheld his bold utterance of days earlier: "I'm just playing around with the 200 free and 400 IM [individual medley] before I get to swim my own event."
His play-around 200 freestyle had brought him bronze, his play-around 400 IM had brought silver and some added playing around in the 400 free wrung another bronze.
A giddy Tunisian cheering section swooned in Dubai. Soon, an appreciative crowd formed in Tunis, as the report noted: "As part of his encouragements to sportspeople to excel and hoist high Tunisia's flag in international events, President Ben Ali headed on Wednesday to Tunis-Carthage International Airport to welcome Olympic champion Oussama Mellouli."
Two mornings before Mellouli swam that 1,500 in Dubai and five mornings before he met President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali at the airport, authorities in the central Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid confiscated the wares of the 26-year-old vegetable vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. When Bouazizi's formal complaints at the necessary offices went unheeded, he set himself afire in front outside the regional governor's office.
His act and his death 18 days later have gained note as a historic buoy, as the moment that sowed the protests that ousted Ben Ali 23 days after something so pristine as beaming over a swimmer at an airport, and as the moment that rippled eventually into rallies across North Africa and beyond, even toppling a head of state as entrenched as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak.
In an interview this weekend with Karen Crouse of the New York Times, Mellouli, 27, spoke with awe of the Tunisian people. He said he had followed raptly the events of late December and early January largely from Los Angeles, the site of his alma mater, the University of Southern California. He said he always reckoned change would come but felt marvel at its haste.
He said that, through the years, government officials had telephoned his father on occasion to query as to why Ous sometimes had not given homage or dedicated medals to the president in post-victory remarks. Thereby did he supply a glimpse into one of the world's curious little caste systems, the very idea that a powerful head of state might crave endorsement from an athlete.
They say sport is a microcosm of life, or is it the other way around?
And then, Mellouli also has forged quite a binge lately, winning five USA Swimming Grand Prix Circuit events in less than one month, claiming outright the 400 IM and 400 freestyle at Indianapolis last week and finishing second to Michael Phelps in the 200m freestyle, which is rather like finishing first in the human division.
At an event in Missouri last month, he spoke of his pride in the Tunisians, and to Crouse he allowed for the possibility that the events in his homeland might have lent him added oomph.
All that, just a blip in time after his duties as a leading national sportsman included meeting the president of his country at the airport. As sport gives just another little window on to the brisk speed of history this time around, the account of that meeting suddenly reads like some ancient script from some other time.
It was, after all, 74 days ago.