U.S. Olympic Trials, Day 4 Finals: Bobby Finke Wins 800 Free; Luke Whitlock Claims Spot on Team USA With NAG Record

Bobby Finke -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

U.S. Olympic Trials, Day 4 Finals: Bobby Finke Wins 800 Free; Luke Whitlock Claims Spot on Team USA With NAG Record

There was never any question that Bobby Finke would be the class of the domestic field in the men’s 800 freestyle. Finke has been the dominant American distance swimmer since prior to the Tokyo Olympics while developing a reputation for swimming up to the level of his competition. He will do what is necessary to beat his domestic rivals. At the international level, though, different story. If Finke can stay close, he will run down almost anyone the last length. A stunning scene when Finke first pulled off the comeback at the Tokyo Olympics, but these days, it’s the expectation, the fear.

Thus, entering Wednesday night’s final, the opposing scenarios Finke being upset or Finke challenging his own American record both seemed unlikely. He would achieve the necessary swim to secure his spot in Paris, where he would undoubtedly stay close enough to be in the hunt the last 50. No worries if his time was lackluster. Just wait for the Games.

Indeed, Finke led throughout the 16 lengths, but one competitor would not go away: a teenager from nearby Noblesville, Ind., in the midst of the biggest meet of his life.

Luke Whitlock had already posted a handful of remarkable performances this week, dropping three seconds from his lifetime best in the 400 free to claim the top seed for the final. Whitlock would finish fifth in that event on the opening night of competition, but after Monday’s 800 free prelims, Whitlock would be back in that same position, lane four in a Trials final, and he would not let the opportunity pass.

Whitlock swam in second place for the entire race, staying within a second of Finke for all but a handful of 50-meter splits midway through the race. Even on the way home, typically when Finke shines, he could not switch into any higher gear this time as Whitlock actually slightly closed the gap.

Eventually, Finke touched in 7:44.22, just under a second ahead of Whitlock’s 7:45.19. Whitlock distanced himself from the rest of the field by more than four seconds, with Daniel Matheson (7:49.34) the only other swimmer to break 7:50.

“I find I need pressure to do well, at least in my eyes,” Finke said. “So I feel like the more pressure I feel then the more likely I am to do well. Happy with the time we got.”

Whitlock’s time crushed his personal best by six seconds, and he took down a 21-year-old National Age Group record of 7:48.09 that belonged to Olympic medalist Larsen Jensen. Whitlock took full advantage of swimming this Olympic selection meet a short drive from home, and he had a substantial group of family and friends inside Lucas Oil Stadium providing support.

“I just trust my training to be able to go out fast and have it on the back half. I’m not sure how I split it, but I was out pretty aggressive and it hurt pretty bad. But it was worth it in the end,” Whitlock said. “The last two months, my training has picked up. Just talking to my coach, we had a really good plan coming in here. We had everything planned out for a month and a half before, and I’m just really confident with the work I’m putting in and that I could execute it.”

Finke, meanwhile, achieved no unprecedented performance: no sub-7:40 swim like he has achieved at the last two World Championships, not even a shot at the U.S. Open record of 7:40.34 he set a few blocks away at the IUPUI Natatorium at last year’s U.S. Nationals. He sits fifth in the world rankings, more than three seconds behind the global No. 1 mark belonging to Ireland’s Dan Wiffen (7:40.94). But no one should ever discount the defending champion.

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27 days ago


27 days ago

I want the Irishman Wiffen
to win the Distance Double! Even above Aussies Short and Winnington in the 800m!

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