Bobby Finke Comes from Behind Again, Wins Gold in 1500m

Finke swept the 1500m and 800m over more established distance swimmers

Bobby Finke did it again.

The 21-year-old from Clearwater, Florida, pulled off one of the best finishes in the pool at the Tokyo Olympics when he dominated the last lap of the men’s 800m to edge out Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri and win gold on Wednesday night. Three days later, he came from behind again in a race almost twice as long.

Finke was in third place in the 1500m meters with three laps of the 30-lap race to go, but he charged by Florian Wellbrock of Germany and Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine to secure the gold in 14:39.65. Romanchuk wound up with the silver, and Wellbrock the bronze.

How did Finke come through at the end? He heard the voice of his coach, Anthony Nesty, in his head:

“I texted my coach after the 800, telling him he has no idea I had him yelling at me in my head to switch gears for that last 50. That’s where I got it -- my coaches constantly yelling at me to come home.”

With Finke’s win, Americans swept the men’s and women’s distance races, with Katie Ledecky picking up her third straight 800m gold and winning the inaugural women’s 1500m. This was also the first time the men’s 800m was included on the Olympic program.

Ledecky, a spectator for the final night of swimming, shouted out Finke on Twitter:

Finke, a rising senior at the University of Florida, was not expected to be a major factor in either distance race. This year Paltrinieri, Wellbrock and Romanchuk had all posted faster times than Finke in the 1500m, and the Italian and Ukrainian were also favored in the 800m.  

But with his stunning personal-best performances in Tokyo, he could be a force to be reckoned with for many years to come.

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