American Finke takes first Olympic gold in new 800 freestyle event

Japan 2020
Robert Finke

Robert Finke of the United States celebrates winning the men’s 800-meters freestyle final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)


TOKYO (AP) — With a dazzling burst of closing speed, Bobby Finke of the United States captured gold Thursday in the debut of the men’s 800-meter swimming freestyle at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri claimed the silver after leading most of the race, while the bronze went to Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine.

It was a thrilling finish. Germany’s Florian Wellbrock snatched the lead from Paltrinieri on the final flip, with Finke lurking back in fourth.

But the American turned on the speed at the end of the 16-lap race, passing all three swimmers ahead of him to take the gold.

Finke’s winning time was 7 minutes, 41.87 seconds, just 0.24 ahead of Paltrinieri. Romachuk touched in 7:42.33, knocking Wellbrock back to fourth.

The men’s 800 freestyle was added to the Olympic program for these games, marking the first time that approximate distance was contested by the men since there was an 880-yard race at the 1904 St. Louis Games.

Finke’s victory briefly pulled the U.S. ahead of Australia in the gold medal race at the Olympic pool, but Izaac Stubblety-Cook evened things up again with a victory in the 200 breaststroke.

Mirroring Finke’s finish, Stubblety-Cook rallied on the final lap to pass Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands, who went out fast and tried to hold on.

The winning time was an Olympic record of 2 minutes, 6.38 seconds, giving the team from Down Under their fifth gold of the swimming competition.

The Americans also had five and led the overall medal tally 17-10.

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Kamminga was under world-record pace through the first 150 meters, but he faded to the silver in 2:07.01. The bronze went to Finland’s Matti Mattsson in 2:07.24.

American Nic Fink finished fifth.

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