Nic Fink Avenges Third Place in 100 Breast to Win Emotional 200 Breast at Olympic Trials; Wilson Joins in Second

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

After a devastating third place finish in the 100 breaststroke on Monday night, 27-year-old Nic Fink made his first Olympic team on Thursday in the 200 breaststroke with a 2:07.55. Fink will be joined in Tokyo in this event by his fellow Georgia teammate Andrew Wilson (2:08.32) as both men entered the top 10 world rankings for 2021.

The men’s 200 breast final was a loaded final in terms of experience. Half the field was 26-years-old or older – Fink, Wilson and Kevin Cordes, who all train together at the University of Georgia, are all 27, and Will Licon, who was third at the 2016 Trials and looked to be a popular redemption pick tonight, is 26. Fink was a popular redemption pick as well after coming into the 100 final as the second seed and getting out-touched by Wilson by 0.06.

The race played out as expected with Wilson turning first at 28.80 and Fink at 28.95. Cordes, who was known to take it out fast in year’s past, often turning under world record place after the first 100 or 150 meters, much like he did in this event at the 2016 Trials where he finished second.

At the 100, it was Stanford’s Daniel Roy, who had the top time in the nation this season, turning at 1:01.37 with Wilson (1:01.42), Fink (1:01.49) and Licon (1:01.63) all within striking distance of each other.

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Andrew Wilson. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Top seed Matt Fallon, the 18-year-old who broke the national age group record last night in the semi finals to surprisingly grab the top seed, turned eighth at 1:04.16. He was well off the pace but his closing speed in the semifinals was scintillating, and many in the arena did not count him out despite how far behind he looked. But by the 125, Fallon was out of the picture and the focus turned to the veterans in the middle of the pool.

On the third 50, Roy, who won the World Juniors title in 2017, pressed the foot on the gas, splitting a 32.98 and extended his lead at 1:34.35 with Fink in second (1:34.57), Wilson in third (1:34.59) and Licon (1:34.70) in fourth. But Roy couldn’t hold on to that pace very long, and he quickly faded back. Fallon was well out of the picture, turning at 1:37.35, and the race was on between Fink, Wilson and Licon. It looked like a deja vu of the 2016 Trials when it came down to three guys, and it produced a similar result – Fink first at 2:07.55, Wilson second at 2:08.32, and Licon in third for the second straight Trials at 2:08.50.

“I don’t have words to describe it,” Nic Fink said. “We have put in some great work this year.”

Wilson swam undergrad at Emory, where he was an NCAA Division III record holder, and while he prepared for the 2016 Trials at the University of Texas, he came back to his Georgia roots in late 2018 to train at the University of Georgia with Fink.

“I’m just so stoked for Nic,” Wilson said. “Obviously, I’m happy that I got that second spot in the 100, but there’s nobody who’s more deserving than Nic. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”

The End of a Long Road

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Nic Fink realizes his dream of making the Olympic team. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Fink had long been a member of the USA national team, finishing second to Cordes in the 100 breast at the 2013 Nationals and again four years later in the 200 at the 2017 U.S. Nationals. He swam on three World Championship teams in 2013, 2015 and 2017, but had yet to swim in an Olympics. After coming in as a favorite to make the team in 2016, he finished seventh in both the 100 and 200, while many of his Georgia teammates went on to race in Rio.

“One of the reasons I kind of spun my wheels in 2016 and had a pretty poor meet was because I envisioned myself winning, and there was no other option, and if there were, then I wouldn’t have even considered it,” Nic Fink said. “I wouldn’t put any stock into it. The reality is that this is a really fast meet, and there’s a lot of fast people here. If you put the entirety of your career on one meet, then it kind of nullifies everything else that you can do.

“I think it was a lot more fun this time around and a lot less stressful knowing that I was going to be happy either way. If my hard work made it so I made a team – great! If not then it was an awesome experience to be here like it was in ’16. Seeing my friends and teammates make the team would have been worth it, but making the team myself was also a lot of fun.”

In 2021, he was a favorite again and he missed the 100 spot by the slimmest of margins.

“I would rather slip on the blocks than get out-touched like that and I didn’t cut my fingernails between then and now,” Fink said. “It’s going to come down between tenths and hundredths and it wouldn’t be any different out in Tokyo. That’s going to be just as fast, if not faster, and tenths and hundredths mean everything out there. So those guys who made it, they earned it. It was a tough pill to swallow, but I learned from it, and I didn’t want to make the same mistakes I made in that race in the 200.”

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Nic Fink waves at the Omaha crowd. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

When Fink touched the wall first, his swim was his first time ever under 2:08, he sat on the lane line. Almost immediately, Wilson came over to give him a hug, and it was clear the emotions of making his first team at 27 were already hitting him. As he got out of the pool, Fink took a long moment of reflection and a big sigh of relief, knowing this was his last chance to get on the team.

“For the 100, I imagined myself being way more excited and splashing water and all that stuff,” Fink said. “But after the third place and the two days of reflection, I’ve realized that I was definitely more relieved than excited.

“Trying to process everything, I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it, but I wanted to let it sink in. It was mostly me holding back all my emotions than just being a mess out there. There was enough water in the pool and I didn’t need to add more with water works there.”

Fink was one of a few Georgia based swimmers to finish in the devastating third place finish this week – notably Melanie Margalis in the 400 IM and Olivia Smoliga in the 100 back.

“It is something you can talk about among teammates,” Fink said. “Melanie has experience getting fourth and out of medal position and she was able to talk me through things like that. We are great supporters of each other and we’ve seen the highs of the sport and lows of the sport. That helps us get through the speed bumps like getting third at trials.”

Results:

  1. Nic Fink, 2:07.55
  2. Andrew Wilson, 2:08.32
  3. Will Licon, 2:08.50
  4. Kevin Cordes, 2:10.06
  5. AJ Pouch, 2:10.35
  6. Jake Foster, 2:11.24
  7. Daniel Roy, 2:11.87
  8. Matt Fallon, 2:12.25

2021 World Rankings (Tokyo Qualifiers)

  1. 2:06.28, Zac Stubblety-Cook, AUS
  2. 2:06.40, Shoma Sato, JPN
  3. 2:06.99, Anton Chupkov, RUS
  4. 2:07.23, Arno Kamminga, NED
  5. 2:07.55, Nic Fink, USA
  6. 2:07.58, Ryuya Mura, JPN
  7. 2:07.66, Erik Persson, SWE
  8. 2:08.06, James Wilby, GBR
  9. 2:08.26, Matti Mattsson, FIN
  10. 2:08.32, Andrew Wilson, USA

1 comment

  1. Benjamin van der Wel

    So very happy for Nic Fink (and Andrew Wilson) today in the 200Br. Fantastic race and what a final 50 for Fink! <3