The USA's Robert Finke wins gold in first-ever men's Olympic 800m freestyle final

Itay's Gregorio Paltrinieri takes silver and Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine wins bronze

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The first-ever men's Olympic 800m freestyle champion has been crowned.

Robert Finke of the USA won a thrilling final in a time of 7:41.87, beating Italy's Gregorio Paltrinieri - the 1500 metre freestyle champion at Rio 2016 - to the line, after the Italian had gone out fast to lead much of the race by a body length.

However, Finke, who also won the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, blazed back to secure a historic gold medal, with Gregorio Paltrinieri taking home silver and Mykhailo Romanchuk of Ukraine winning bronze.

The 21-year-old Finke, produced a performance of grit and determination to win the race, having been fourth on the last turn before storming back to win. “I noticed 10 metres out I was catching up a little bit of ground and that was the only motivation I needed to try and pass and get my hand to the wall first,” he said.

In a tournament in which he has lowered his personal best by a full six seconds, the Florida native was left surprised by his own ability to rise to the big occasion.

“The best time I had going in (before Tokyo 2020) was 8:47, and prelims I dropped down to 8:42 and here (in the final) I dropped another second. I had no idea I was going to do that,” he said.

Finke is scheduled to race again in the 1500m freestyle finals, with the heats set to take place on 30 July and the final on 1 August.

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