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.