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Bobby Finke wins the 800 free at the U.S. Olympic Trials



Bobby Finke waited through a year of uncertainty because of the coronavirus to secure his spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. 

Better still, the former Countryside standout did it as the first-ever American representative in the 800 meter freestyle, which makes its debut as an event at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Surging ahead out of blocks, Finke never relinquished his lead, winning the 800 free  in 7 minutes, 48.22 seconds at the U.S. Olympic Trials. 

When the pandemic closed pools last year, Finke made due by swimming open water practice sessions in Tampa Bay. 

He entered the Olympics Trials with the top seed in the 800 and finished second in the preliminaries. 

And to think the 800 is not Finke’s best event. 

His specialty is the 1,500 freestyle. The University of Florida junior has the top seed in his signature event, which caps off the final night of the Olympic Trials on Sunday. 


Bobby Finke makes Olympic history by winning 800 free



Bobby Finke already made history before the finals of the 800 meter freestyle, which made its debut as an event at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The former Countryside standout, the first-ever American representative in the event, set an American record in the preliminaries, shaving off more than five seconds from his time at the Olympic Trials. By improving that much, Finke went from being questionable to even making the finals to one of the favorites to medal. 

On Wednesday, Finke made history again.

Not only did he become the first ever Olympic champion in the event but also became the first male swimmer from the Tampa Bay area to win gold in an individual event. 

Finishing among the top three did seem likely through most of the final. 

Finke was fifth with 150 meters to go. Then he turned it on, leaving others in his wake.

In the final 50 meters, Finke put himself in striking distance. At the end he touched the wall ahead of everyone else, finishing first in 7 minutes, 41.87 seconds.

“I just wanted to get my hand to the wall,” Finke told NBC afterward. “I was just so happy I was able to switch to another gear.”

The Tampa Bay area has always been strong among female swimmers. Former Lakewood standout Nicole Haislett and Brooke Bennett combined for six Olympic gold medals, including four in individual events.

That is not all.  

Countryside graduate Melanie Margalis was part of the winning 4×200 meter freestyle relay team and former Tampa Bay Tech star Correia McClendon took silver in a relay. 

Male swimmers from the area have not been able to match that success. In fact, the only male champion was Scott Tucker, a former Seminole standout who was part of a winning relay in 1996.

Now Finke becomes the first champion.

And to think the 800 free is not even his best event. 

Finke’s specialty is distance events. On Friday, he competes in the preliminaries of his signature event, the 1,500 free.  

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Swimming: Three former area stars to compete at Olympics



The swimming events for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo start on Saturday. Three former area standouts — each representing a different country — are vying to place, even contend for a medal, in their individual events. Here is a look at the local trio. 

Bobby Finke

High school: Countryside

College: Florida

Country: United States

Events: 800 freestyle, 1500 freestyle

Outlook: A former state champion in the 200-yard individual medley and 500-yard freestyle, Finke has become the nation’s premier distance swimmer. He won both the 800-meter and 1,500-meter free at the U.S. Olympic Trials. The 1,500 is the best shot for Finke to finish among the top three. He has the fifth-best entry time (14 minutes, 46.06 seconds) in his signature event according to the most recent psych sheets. 

When to watch

Check out Bobby Finke’s preliminary Olympic schedule

EventDay/timePreliminary heat
800 freeTuesday, 7:40 a.m.No. 4
1500 freeFriday, 7:31 a.m.No. 4

Emir Muratovic

High School: Ridgewood

College: Florida State

Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Events: 50 freestyle, 100 free

Outlook: One of the area’s top sprinters, Muratovic won state titles in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 free before becoming one of FSU’s top swimmers during his college career (2015-19). He is one of seven athletes from Bosnia and Herzegovina who qualified for the Olympics.  

When to watch

Check out Emir Muratovic’s preliminary Olympic schedule

EventDay/timePreliminary heat
100 freeTuesday, 6:11 a.m.No. 5
50 freeFriday, 6:07 a.m.No. 5

Sydney Pickrem

High school: East Lake

College: Texas A&M 

Country: Canada

Events: 200 individual medley, 400 individual medley, 200 breaststroke

Outlook: The two-time Pinellas County swimmer of the year who led East Lake to its only state team title in 2014 has been one of Canada’s best swimmers for years. She finished sixth in the 400-meter individual medley at the 2016 Rio Olympics, two spots behind former Countryside standout Melanie Margalis. Pickrem has perhaps the best chance of any former area athlete to medal. She has the second-fastest entry time (2 minutes, 08.61 seconds) in the 200 IM and the sixth-fastest in the 400 IM (4:35.15) according to the latest psych sheets. 

When to watch

Check out Sydney Pickrem’s preliminary Olympic schedule

EventDay/timePreliminary heat
400 IMToday, 7:12 a.m.No. 2
200 IMMonday, 6:42 a.m.No. 3
200 breastWednesday, 6:42 a.m.No. 3

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Bobby Finke adds 1,500 title at the U.S. Olympic Trials



Bobby Finke already made the U.S. Olympic Team by winning the 800 free earlier this week at the swimming trials.

On Sunday, the former Countryside standout solidified himself as the men’s premier distance swimmer by winning the 1,500 free — his signature event — in 14 minutes, 46.06 seconds. 

Finke entered the trials as the top seed in the 1,500 by more than five seconds. He continued to leave competitors in his wake, first in the preliminaries on Saturday and then in the finals on Sunday. 

His time in the final was more than four seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Michael Brinegar (15:00.87). Finke, a junior at Florida, continued the Gators’ dominance on the men’s side at the trials. In fact, every freestyle event was won by a Florida swimmer. The others were Caleb Dressel (50 and 100) and Kieran Smith (200 and 400). 

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