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Bobby Finke makes Olympic history by winning 800 free

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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.  

Swimming

Girls Swimmer of the Week

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Here are the nominees for the girls swimmer of the week. Voting lasts until 9 a.m. Tuesday. 

Brooke Beede, So., Robinson: Ended up the champion in the 50 free (24.66) and 100 free (53.90) at American Division Western Conference Meet. 

Summer Cardwell, Jr., Countryside: Took first in the 500 free (4:58.61) and finished second in the 100 back (56.42). 

Emma Hamilton, Jr., Strawberry Crest: Won the 50 free (26.24) and 100 free (57.04) at the National Division Western Conference meet. 

Alexa Paredes, So., Newsome: Took first in the 100 breast (1:11.53) and the 500 free (2:23.05) at the Federal Division Western Conference meet. 

Carissa Rinard, Jr., Seminole: Won the 100 back (56.06) and took second in the 500 free at the Pinellas County Athletic Conference meet. 

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The girls swimmer/diver of the week

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Sara Parksvold, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic

Standing on the edge of a springboard, Sara Parksvold twists and turns before hitting the chlorinated water with little splash, if any. 

The St. Petersburg Catholic diver has made significant gains in her sport, earning All-American honors at the club level and winning just about every meet she enters in high school 

Earlier this season, Parksvold scored 214.75 points to win a six-dive meet against Shorecrest and Northside Christian. She followed that up by winning another title at the Tampa Bay Classic. 

Fans took notice. Parksvold received more than 62 percent of the votes (748) in the swimmer/diver of the week poll to beat out Sara Bohacek, who had 34 percent (418 votes).

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Swimming: Girls Swimmer of the Week

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Here are the nominees for the girls swimmer of the week. Voting lasts until 9 a.m. Tuesday. 

Sara Bohacek, Tampa Prep: Won the 100 fly (1:03.87) and the 100 breast (1:10.94), as well as swam legs on the winning 400 free relay (3:58.48) and the second-place 200 medley relay (2:05.05) at a meet earlier this season. 

Grace Descent, Keswick Christian: Set schools in the 100 free (57.96 seconds) and 100 back (1:06.10) at a meet earlier this season. 

Sarah Holmes, Clearwater Central Catholic: Won the 50 frees and 100 breast and swam legs on the winning 200 medley and 200 free relay teams in a tri-meet with Calvary Christian and Northside Christian earlier this month. 

Sara Parksvold, St. Petersburg Catholic: The AAU All-American scored 214.75 to win a six-dive meet against Shorecrest and Northside Christian earlier this season. 

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