By Sharon Robb
TOKYO, Japan, July 28, 2021–In one of the most exciting nights in the history of Florida swimming, Caeleb Dressel and Bobby Finke won gold medals for Team USA Wednesday at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
It was Dressel’s first individual gold medal and fourth overall (three others on relays in two Olympic Games) against the world’s fastest final field ever assembled in the event.
Dressel was emotional after the race, trying to hold back tears that kept coming while watching his parents, wife and sister on NBC’s coverage of the watch party in Orlando.
“I don’t know if this has set in yet,” Dressel said. “Right now I’m kind of hurting. It’s been a really tough year, it was really hard, so to have the results show up really makes me some kind of happy.”
Finke, 21, of University of Florida and St. Petersburg Aquatics, won the first-ever men’s 800-meter freestyle in an American record 7:41.87. Reigning world champion Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy was second in 7:42.11 and Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk was third in 7:42.33.
Looking out of medal contention for most of the race in fifth place, Finke found another gear after the final turn with a 26.3 split and reeled in four swimmers in the final 25 meters to win his first Olympic final.
“Oh yeah,” Finke said, when asked if he had surprised himself with his performance. “My best time going into this was (7:47). And then in prelims, I dropped down to (7:42). And then here I dropped another second. So I had no idea that I was going to do that, honestly.”
The gold is the first for an American male swimmer in an Olympic distance race since 1984.
“The pain kind of goes away once you just start,” Finke said. “Your mind just kind of disappears, and you’re just kind of blacking out a little bit. I just wanted to get my hand on the wall. I am so happy that I was able to switch it into another gear. This means a lot. Coming into this there was a lot of doubt behind American distance.”
Local swimmers results:
Azura’s Colleen Furgeson of the Marshall Islands was fifth in her 100-meter freestyle heat in 58.71.
Azura has four swimmers competing Thursday. They are Abbas Qali of Kuwait, 100 butterfly; Davidson Vincent of Haiti, 100 butterfly; Steven Aimable, 100 butterfly; and Celina Marquez of El Salvador, 200 backstroke.
In other championship medal finals:
Women’s 200-meter butterfly: No one was going to catch China’s Yufei Zhang who won in an Olympic record 2:03.86, the fastest time in 12 years. China has won three of the last four gold medals in the event. The U.S. took silver and bronze with Regan Smith in 2:05.30 and Hali Flickinger in 2:05.65.
Women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay:
China upset Australia for the gold medal and Katie Ledecky turned in on with her 1:53 anchor leg to give the U.S. a silver medal. Heavy favorite Australia took the bronze. All three teams swam under the old world record of 7:41.50. China won in a world record 7:40.33, the U.S. took silver in an American record 7:40.73 and Australia third in an Oceanic record 7:41.29. Ledecky has now won three Olympics medals including one gold. She can win one more Saturday in the 800 freestyle.
Men’s 200-meter breaststroke: Aussie Izaac Stubblety-Cook surged in the final 50 meters to win in an Olympic record 2:06.38. Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands was second in 2:07.01 just ahead of Finland’s Matti Mattsson in 2:07.13.
200-meter butterfly: 1. Yufei Zhang, CHN 2:03.86, 2. Regan Smith, US 2:05.30, 3. Hali Flickinger, US 2:05.65.
4×200-meter freestyle relay: 1. China 7:40.33, 2. United States 7:40.73, 3. Australia 7:41.29.
800-meter freestyle: 1. Bobby Finke, US 7:41.87, 2. Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy 7:42.11, 3. Mykailo Romanchuk, UKR 7:42.33.
200-meter breaststroke: 1. Izaac Stubblety-Cook, AUS 2:06.38, 2. Arno Kamminga, NED 2:07.01, 3. Matti Mattsson, FIN 2:07.13.
100-meter freestyle: 1. Caeleb Dressel, US 47.02, 2. Kyle Chalmers, AUS 47.08, 3. Kliment Kolesnikov, ROC 47.44.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com