Bobby Finke’s Big Finish in the Olympics Surprises Himself, and His Rivals
TOKYO – Even Bobby Finke didn’t know he could swim that fast.
But his incredible ability to find second gear in the pool – especially in the last 50 meters of a long-distance race – resulted in two surprise gold medals at these Olympics for Finke, a 21-year-old long-distance swimmer from of Tampa, Florida. .
Finke, a first-time Olympian, won the men’s 800-meter freestyle on Thursday. On Sunday he won the 1500 freestyle. Seemingly out of nowhere, the performances left everyone – his opponents, his coaches, even Finke himself – a little stunned.
“I didn’t know I had these swims in me,” Finke said with a smile on Sunday. “When I noticed during the 800 foreplay that I was still with the guys, I was just trying to ride the wave and have fun.”
Riding the wave made Finke one of the surprises of the Games. His winning time in the 1,500m on Sunday was 9.05 seconds faster than his best time in the distance this year. Dave Durden and Greg Meehan, the United States team’s male and female coaches, were later questioned if they knew Finke was capable of such speed. They raised their hands and laughed.
“I don’t think we necessarily saw the 800 performance go the way it did,” Meehan said. “But we certainly saw it coming in the mile. I think everyone in the building knew what was going on the last 100 kilometers. “
Finke became the first American to win gold in the men’s 1,500 since Michael O’Brien in 1984, then said he hoped his performance would spark more interest in the event – a grueling marathon in a sport where sprinters are often the stars United States.
“Distance swimming in the United States has been relatively weak over the past five years,” said Finke. “I hope a lot of young kids get inspired and come here and kick some ass too.”
After his victory on Sunday, Finke said he struggled in the opening laps of the race to stay with the leading pack. But once he saw that he was indeed able to keep up with the leaders, Germany’s Florian Wellbrock and Ukrainian Mykhailo Romanchuk, he started to gain confidence.
His plan, at this point, was to “hang in there and sprint to the end,” he said. The sight of Finke leaping forward on the final lap caused a crescendo of noise from the crowds of swimmers and coaches watching from the stands. That sound only got bigger when Finke took the lead in his final turn.
“I saw how shoulder-to-shoulder the three of us were, and I knew from my 800 that I had the ability to change gears for my last 50,” said Finke.
He completed the last 50 meters in 25.78 seconds – over a second faster than any other swimmer in the race – and was still pulling away when he hit the wall.
When asked at the post-race press conference what he thought of Finke’s race, Romanchuk, the silver medalist, turned to Finke and said: “I don’t. don’t like guys who swim so fast the last 50 meters. And then everyone laughed.
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