Nic Fink Breaks 17-Year American Streak in Men’s Breaststrokes at SC Worlds


28-year old American swimmer Nic Fink broke a 17-year drought for the Americans on Saturday when he won the 200 breaststroke at the FINA World Short Course Swimming Championships. Not only did he become the first American man to win the 200 breaststroke at this meet since the US-hosted 2004 event in Indianapolis, but he became the first American man to win any breaststroke race at the Short Course World Championships since 2004.

17 years ago, American Brendan Hansen took the treble, winning the 50, 100, and 200 breaststrokes. Since then, the US has won just two breaststroke medals of any color at this meet: Mark Gangloff a silver in the 50 in 2008, and Kevin Cordes a bronze in 2012.

The only event where the American men have had similar struggles across meets has been the men’s distance freestyles, though Bobby Finke took a big bite out of that narrative in Tokyo.

While the U.S. hasn’t been great for a while in long course either (the last U.S. Olympic gold in the men’s 100 or 200 breaststroke came in 1992), the U.S. should, in theory, be better in short course than they are. The high school and NCAA systems put a ton of emphasis on short course swimming, more than basically anywhere else in the world, and in yards breaststroke, especially, a swimmer with big turns can dominate a field far beyond their long course abilities.

Most recent U.S. Champions in World Championship, Olympic events (MEN)

Last SC Worlds Gold Last LC World Gold
Last Olympic Gold
50 free None (since 1993) 2019 2020
100 free 2018 2019 2020
200 free 2018 2011 2008
400 free 2000 1975 1984
800 free N/A None (since 2001) 2020
1500 free None (since 1993) 1975 2020
50 back 2008 2001 N/A
100 back 2018 2013 2016
200 back 2010 2013 2016
50 breast 2004 2019 N/A
100 breast 2004 2007 1992
200 breast 2004 2005 1992
50 fly 2004 2019 N/A
100 fly 2004 2019 2020
200 fly None (Since 1993) 2011 2016
100 IM 2016 N/A N/A
200 IM 2012 2017 2016
400 IM 2010 2017 2020

December 2021 has been a career turning-point for Fink. Before his World Championship, he was one of the highlights of the ISL season when he upset World Record holder Ilya Shymanovich to win the 50, 100, and 200 breaststrokes at the ISL finale, scoring huge points for his Cali Condors team.

He’s been stuck in a quagmire of a breaststroke group for the Americans for the last few years along with Andrew Wilson and Michael Andrew. With Wilson not in the UK and on what seems to be semi-swimming-retirement, and Andrew facing some issues with consistency, Fink has pounced on an opportunity to jump into the poll position, at least emotionally, ahead of the quick turnaround to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

After the Olympics, where Fink placed 5th in the 200 breaststroke, he moved to Atlanta from nearby Athens, where he trained in and since college. On social media, Fink has indicated that he might be already looking toward his post-swimming career in engineering, posting that he is seeking a part-time job in that field.

But between a $15,000 prize in this 200 breast, $10,500 in the 100 breast earlier in the meet, the 50 and some relay swims still to come, and around $70,000 in ISL money, he’s earning enough, at least, to justify stretching his career in the pool out a little longer.

We can’t ignore the absences from this meet – no Zac Stubblety-Cook from Australia or Kirill Prigoda from Russia, for example – and we can’t ignore that this has all been in short course and not long course either.

But we also can’t ignore momentum. He swam best times in the 100 breast (58.50) and 200 breast (2:07.55) at the US Olympic Trials, in spite of a 2020 year that was interrupted by both pandemic and a pair of broken wrists. He’s now winning, regularly, on big stages, even if not the biggest stages. With 2022’s World Aquatics Championships (long course) in May, an unusually-early time slot, and then right back in to a short course World Championship again at the end of the year, these modest victories could snowball into big success in Paris.

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1 year ago

I think it’s a false narrative to say that the rest of the world doesn’t emphasize short course. The US exists in its own anachronistic bubble with its self absorbed adherence to yards and stunning disregard for SCM. Lots of foreign swimmers arrive at US universities and immediately dominate. A quick review of world rankings reveals the myth that America rules short course.

1 year ago

Happy for Licon also. He’s suffered a ton of disappointment, it’s good to see a breakthrough.

1 year ago

We do need Fink to stick around for a bit longer, someone better start gofundme page for Nic

Reply to  Tomek
1 year ago

He probably made more money this year than 96% of the people reading this article!

This Guy
Reply to  Ghost
1 year ago

Assuming ISL pays out

1 year ago

Suggested revision: The US has never won the LC World Gold in the 50 breaststroke.

There's no doubt that he's tightening up
Reply to  Jack
1 year ago

It currently reads 2019, I think a certain dancing Brit has something to say about that…

Human Ambition
Reply to  Jack
1 year ago

It must refer to reigning women’s champ Lilly King

Last edited 1 year ago by Human Ambition
1 year ago

gold medals should be paid a minimum of 50k at a meet like this. Swimmers are the greatest athletes in the world.

1 year ago

Wow, Tim Shaw is the last American to win LC worlds gold in the mile or the 400! That’s pretty crazy, but he was a legend!

Big Mac #1
Reply to  N P
1 year ago

Two sport phenom

The condors were robbed
1 year ago

Dolphinovich got finked again..

1 year ago

Looking at those distance event streaks…. Can’t wait for Bobby to update the 800/1500 lists for the U.S.

Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
1 year ago

I sure hope so. Yet, as impressive as Finke’s wins were in the 800/1500, I’m really not sure he would’ve beat Palt had he not gotten mono, considering he was in career-best form in late 2020. Wellbrock and Romanchuk also have faster PBs in both these events, but of course, it only matters if you can swim those times when it counts. I’m not saying Finke won’t continue to be at the top of the podium at international competitions, but he definitely has some tough work cut out for him.

Reply to  HJones
1 year ago

He’s a distance swimmer at florida, I’m sure tough work is what built him in the first place. He just needs to stay within a body length of the field going into the last 100 to make it exciting

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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