Bobby Finke Shatters American Record En Route to First 800 Free Olympic Gold


The Olympics have officially seen their first podium in the men’s 800 freestyle, with American Bobby Finke coming from behind to finish on top. 

Finke, who set the American record in the event during prelims, shattered his standard tonight, swimming a time of 7:41.87 to take the gold medal.

American Record Split Comparison

Bobby Finke – 2020 Olympic Games Finals
Bobby Finke – 2020 Olympic Games Prelims Michael McBroom – 2013 World Championships
100m 56.42 56.11 56.98
200m 1:54.97 1:54.23 1:55.76
300m 2:53.52 2:52.65 2:54.21
400m 3:51.97 3:50.91 3:52.80
500m 4:50.63 4:49.44 4:51.17
600m 5:48.96 5:47.60 5:49.84
700m 6:46.89 6:45.46 6:47.97
800m 7:41.87 7:42.72 7:43.60


Reigning world champion Gregorio Paltrinieri finished second in a time of 7:42.11. Paltrinieri’s podium finish was also a surprise to some, as he barely qualified to compete in the final, finishing 8th out of prelims. The Italian superstar was diagnosed with mono earlier this year, which hindered his performances at the European Championships. 

Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk touched third, slightly off of his prelims time of 7:41.28. However, he still earned a bronze medal for his efforts. 

Finke’s time now ranks him 13th all-time in this event, while Romanchuk and Paltrineri remain at 8th and 6th all-time, respectively.

All-Time Performers – Men’s 800 Freestyle

1 ZHANG LIN (CHN) 7:32.12 2009
2 Oussama Mellouli (TUN) 7:35.27 2009
3 Sun Yang (CHN) 7:38.57 2011
4 Grant Hackett (AUS) 7:38.65 2005
5 Ian Thorpe (AUS) 7:39.16 2001
6 Gregorio Paltrinieri(ITA) 7:39.27 2019
7 Gabriele Detti (ITA) 7:40.77 2017
8 Henrik Christiansen (NOR) 7:41.28 2019
9 Mykhailo Romanchuk(UKR) 7:41.28 2021
10 Wojciech Wojdak (POL) 7:41.73 2017
11 Florian Wellbrock(GER) 7:41.77 2021
12 Ryan Cochrane (CAN) 7:41.86 2011
13 Bobby Finke(USA) 7:41.87 2021

Paltrinieri took the race out quickly, splitting 55.15 over the first 100m, ahead of Jack McLoughlin, Finke, Romanchuk, and Florian Wellbrock

Over the next 400 meters, Paltrinieri managed to hold on to the lead, extending it to about 3 seconds. The same group of McLoughlin, Finke, Romanchuk, and Wellbrock remained tightly bunched, battling behind Paltrinieri for the minor medals. 

Then, at the 600 meter mark, Romanchuk made his move, pulling away from the pack and challenging a fading Paltrinieri. Meanwhile, Finke began to fall back from McLoughlin and Wellbrock, seemingly falling out of medal contention. 

At the final turn, it appeared to be a battle between Romanchuk and Paltrinieri for the gold medal, as the men sprinted to the finish. However, on the final 50, Finke closed in a monster 26.39 to run down the field. Finke managed to get his hand to the wall first, winning the first Olympic gold in the men’s 800 free. 


By country:

  • United States – 20
  • Great Britain – 6
  • Germany/East Germany – 3
  • Australia/Australasia – 2
  • Hungary – 1
  • Netherlands – 1
  • Yugoslavia – 1


50m freestyle 1988 Seoul Kristin Otto East Germany
100m freestyle 1912 Stockholm Fanny Durack Australasia
200m freestyle 1968 Mexico City Debbie Meyer United States
400m freestyle 1924 Paris Martha Norelius United States
800m freestyle 1968 Mexico City Debbie Meyer United States
1500m freestyle 2020 Tokyo Katie Ledecky United States
100m backstroke 1924 Paris Sybil Bauer United States
200m backstroke 1968 Mexico City Lillian Watson United States
100m breaststroke 1968 Mexico City Durdica Bjedov Yugoslavia
200m breaststroke 1925 Paris Lucy Morton Great Britain
100m butterfly 1956 Melbourne Shelley Mann United States
200m butterfly 1968 Mexico City Ada Kok Netherlands
200m IM 1968 Mexico City Claudia Kolb United States
400m IM 1964 Tokyo Donna de Varona United States
400 free relay 1912 Stockholm Great Britain Great Britain
800 free relay 1996 Atlanta United States United States
400 medley relay 1960 Rome United States United States


50m freestyle 1988 Seoul Matt Biondi United States
100m freestyle 1896 Athens Alfred Hajos Hungary
200m freestyle 1900 Paris Frederick Lane Australia
400m freestyle 1908 London Henry Taylor Great Britain
800 Freestyle 2020 Tokyo Bobby Finke United States
1500m freestyle 1908 London Henry Taylor Great Britain
100m backstroke 1908 London Arno Bieberstein Germany
200m backstroke 1900 Paris Ernst Hoppenberg Germany
100m breaststroke 1968 Mexico City Don McKenzie United States
200m breaststroke 1908 London Frederick Holman Great Britain
100m butterfly 1968 Mexico City Doug Russell United States
200m butterfly 1956 Melbourne Bill Yorzyk United States
200m IM 1968 Mexico City Charlie Hickcox United States
400m IM 1964 Tokyo Dick Roth United States
400 free relay 1964 Tokyo United States United States
800 free relay 1908 London Great Britain Great Britain
400 medley relay 1960 Rome United States United States

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
yo boy
1 year ago

That race was hands down one of the best races I have ever seen in my entire life

1 year ago

Finke is going to win 1500 free

Reply to  Paul
1 year ago

So far, a UF grad has medaled in all contested men’s freestyle events except the 200.

Reply to  Swammer
1 year ago

Bobby and Kieran are both rising seniors, so they haven’t graduated yet. Nesty’s phone is about to be ringing off the hook with blue-chip recruits. Florida is the future.

Science geek
1 year ago

That was the greatest, like Misty Hyman making Australian kids call it the Hyman stroke. Took it to the titans of distance swimming and shoved it down their thoat.

1 year ago

Congrats to Finke, but my heart goes out to Gregorio. He had mono one month ago and still came back from disappointing heats and raced like a tiger. What a champ! I already admired him, now I worship him

1 year ago

This man is a racer!

1 year ago

IF ever there was a guy who deserved the gold, it was Finke!
The closing 30 meters were simply brilliant on his part – and the touch on the wall, perfection!

1 year ago

26.3 coming home … just unbelievable

Charlie Hodgson
1 year ago

That was the most impressive last 50 I have ever seen. Absolutely a super human effort! I am lost for words to adequately describe how incredible that race was. Congratulations to Bobby and his coaches. I am breathless.

About Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller

Nicole has been with SwimSwam since April 2020, as both a reporter and social media contributor. Prior to joining the SwimSwam platform, Nicole also managed a successful Instagram platform, amassing over 20,000 followers. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. After competing for the swim …

Read More »