TOKYO — Clearwater’s Bobby Finke won his second swimming gold medal of the Olympics on Sunday, taking the 1,500-meter freestyle to add to his win in the 800.
Just as he did in winning the 800, Finke, a rising senior who swims for the Florida Gators, stayed close throughout the 30-lap race and turned on the speed at the end. He touched in 14 minutes, 39.65 seconds.
He became the first American male to win the 1,500 since Mike O’Brien at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.
Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk took the silver in 14:40.66, and the bronze went to Germany’s Florian Wellbrock in 14:40.91. Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri faded to fourth in 14:45.01.
The top four were close nearly the entire race, often separated by less than a second at the turns. But that was right where Finke needed to be. After his closing lap in the 800 to move into first for the gold, he knew he had the speed at the end to beat everyone else.
“I was trying to hold on and just trying to get my hand on the wall,” Finke told NBC in his postrace interview.
He said that in his head, he could hear his coaches yelling at him throughout the last 50 meters like they do in practice. He covered the last 50 in 25.78 seconds, which was faster at these Olympics than anyone’s final 50 in the men’s 800 free, including Finke’s 26.39; anyone’s final 50 in the 400 free (27.06); and anyone’s final 50 in the s 200 free (26.46).
Finke said the gold medals mean “the world” to him and he thanked his coaches for working so hard with him. He was perhaps the biggest American surprise at the pool, where competition finished today. He was relatively unknown before the Olympic trials.
In the 1,500, he took 9.05 seconds off his personal best and swam the second-fastest time in U.S. history. In the 800, he took 5.71 seconds off his personal best and set the American record.