2021 U.S. Olympic Trials Previews: Finke Leads First-Ever Men’s 800 FR Lineup

See all of our U.S. Olympic Trials previews & picks here.

2021 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

Men’s 800 free

  • World Record: Zhang Lin (CHN) – 7:32.12 (2009)
  • American Record: Michael McBroom – 7:43.60 (2013)
  • US Open Record: Zane Grothe (USA) – 7:44.57 (2018)
  • World Junior Record: Mack Horton (AUS) – 7:45.67 (2013)
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: N/A (New Olympic event in 2021)
  • 2016 US Olympic Trials Champion: N/A (New Olympic event in 2021)
  • Wave I Cut: 8:12.99
  • Wave II Cut: 8:08.95

For the first time in Olympic history, the men’s 800 freestyle will be included in the swimming event schedule. Since the start of the Trials qualifying period (11/28/18), 16 active men have swum under 8:00 in the 800 free. The top eight times are currently sub-7:57 and all among the top 25 US performers all-time in the event. However, only a trio of Americans have broken 7:50 in this event in this qualifying period: Bobby Finke, Jordan Wilimovsky, and Zane Grothe. For this 2020-2021 season, only Finke ranks within the top 25 times in the world at 7:53.05. It currently takes sub-7:50 to be in the top 8 fastest times this season.

Looking at the world rankings since 11/28/18, Finke ranks 14th with his Wave II Trials entry time of 7:47.58. Both Grothe and Wilimovsky own faster personal bests than Finke in the 800 free, with Grothe’s 7:43.74 making him the No. 2 US performer all-time and Wilimovsky’s 7:45.18 positioning him 4th on the all-time US performers list. If both their personal bests were swam during the current qualifying Trials period, they would rank 7th and 11th globally. Yet for the time being, Wilimovsky and Grothe own projected Wave II psych seeds of 7:49.76 and 7:50.14 respectively. Perhaps better-known as an open water swimmer, Wilimovsky was a 2016 Olympic finalist in the pool, where he placed a valiant fourth place in the 1500 free final at 14:45.03 behind Olympic runner-up American Connor Jaeger (14:39.48).

Among these three sub-7:50 men, who will become the first-ever US Olympians in this event 2021? Florida Gator Finke is one of the fastest US teens in history in this event and became an U.S. National/NCAA champion within two years. Meanwhile, Boulder City’s Grothe is the current U.S. Open record holder at 7:44.57 and the 2018 U.S. National/Pan Pacs champion while 1500 FR/open water specialist KSwim’s Wilimovsky placed second at the 2018 U.S. Nationals and 2018 Pan Pacs. Yet the U.S. men will need to switch gears to keep up with the rest of the globe at the Tokyo Olympics.

Wave II Projected Seeds
Rank Swimmer Entry Time Meet
1 Bobby Finke 7:47.58 2019 U.S. Nationals
2 Jordan Wilimovsky 7:49.76 2019 U.S. Open
3 Zane Grothe 7:50.14 2019 World Championships
4 Michael Brinegar 7:54.56 2019 U.S. Nationals
5 Andrew Abruzzo 7:54.70 2019 Pan American Games
5 Jake Mitchell 7:54.70 2019 World Junior Championships
7 Ross Dant 7:56.03 2019 U.S. Nationals
8 Nick Norman 7:56.30 2020 Pro Swim Series Des Moines

Roughly four seconds behind the lead trio are Indiana’s Michael Brinegar (7:54.56), Georgia’s Andrew Abruzzo (7:54.70), and Michigan’s Jake Mitchell (7:54.70), all resting at 7:54. Rounding out the top 8 times on the projected Wave II psych sheet (and top 25 US performers list) are NC State’s Ross Dant (7:56.03) and Cal alum Nick Norman (7:56.30).

Norman has been as fast as 7:54.47 in his career, which is faster than Brinegar’s career best. Likewise, while Grant Shoults (8:03.25) and Zach Yeadon (8:01.96) have yet to break 8:00 in 2021, they both have been 7:53.83 and 7:56.32 in their careers. Chris Wieser is another barrier threat with an 8:00.40 and US No. 8 season time of 8:01.92. Rio Olympian Clark Smith has been as fast as 7:50.43 in his career, but was last seen in the 800 free back at the Austin stop of the 2018 Pro Swim Series where he punched in an 8:00.70.

Emerging into the top 8 times during the first swim season during the pandemic was Mission Viejo’s Will Gallant, who sits at No. 3 in the country for the 2020-2021 season at 7:57.55. That time positions Gallant at 12th on the projected Wave II psych sheets. Likewise, multi-distance freestyle threats Jake Magahey (7:58.99) and 400 FR hopeful Kieran Smith (7:59.27) both rank 5th and 6th respectively among the sub-8:00 Americans this season.

Italian Mitch D’Arrigo, aiming to represent the USA for Tokyo 2021, sits in 7th at 8:01.56, just off his projected No. 17 psych seed of 7:59.61. More notable sub-8:00 swimmers to keep an eye on during the first-ever men’s 800 free U.S. Olympic Trials timed final include NC State’s Eric Knowles (7:57.00), 2019 World Junior teamer Arik Katz (7:57.23), Arizona’s Brooks Fail (7:59.19), and Texas’ Jack Collins (7:59.28).

2021 Trials Prediction

Since 2018, Bobby Finke, Zane Grothe, and Jordan Wilimovsky have been spotted within the top-3 finishers at major national events. Most notably, Finke is the second-fastest 15-16 performer and third-fastest 17-18 performer to swim the 800 free in US history. Finke also won the 2019 U.S. National title at 7:47.58, which was faster than Grothe (7:50.14) and Wilimovsky (7:53.11) at the 2019 World Championships. During the shortened 2019-202 season, Wilimovsky topped the US rankings at 7:49.76 from the 2019 U.S. Open, followed by Grothe’s runner-up swim of 7:51.53 and Finke’s mid-summer effort of 7:51.66.

As previously mentioned, Grothe is the current U.S. open record-holder and the second-fastest U.S. performer in event history. On a different note, Wilimovsky is pre-qualified for the men’s 10k open water event for Tokyo and was the 2015 World open water champion along with topping the men’s 1500 free at the 2018 Pan Pacs.

Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Lifetime Best Season Best
1 Bobby Finke 7:47.58 7:53.05
2 Zane Grothe 7:50.14 7:58.04
3 Jordan Wilimovsky 7:45.19 7:54.44
4 Michael Brinegar 7:54.56 8:03.00
5 Jake Magahey 7:58.99 7:58.99
6 Kieran Smith 7:59.27 7:59.27
7 Jake Mitchell 7:54.70 8:03.11
8 Andrew Abruzzo 7:54.70 8:05.31

Wave I Stand-Out: Zach Kohm, 19 (PWAC) — At the 2020 U.S. Open, Kohm swam an 8:16.01, which is faster than the three seeds ahead of him on the Wave I psych sheet. Looking at past times alone, Kohm looks to be in the best position to advance to the Wave II meet. At 17 years old, Kohm hit 8:10.89 in July 2019, which came a month before his 2019 Nationals performance of 8:11.03.

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1 year ago

Aaaghh, I’m so excited to watch Bobby Finke race at trials

Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

Man, these distance races are just racking up the comments.

Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
1 year ago

To be fair, in this case there’s really only three guys with much of a chance of making the team, so there isn’t as much to talk about.

1 year ago

What has happened with Clark Smith? Is he still seriously training? He has only logged one meet this season back in March with quite uninspiring times.

1 year ago

Is Smith more likely to swim this than the 200 IM? I don’t think he does both.

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Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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