ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Dozens of young fans lined up Wednesday afternoon at the North Shore Aquatic Center for a chance to meet and take pictures with Clearwater’s Bobby Finke and his two gold medals from the Tokyo Olympics.

“I just hope to inspire them to join the team, to work hard, trust the coaches,” Finke said. “That’s really the biggest message I have is trust the coaches.”

8 On Your Side asked Finke how it felt to have the two gold medals around his neck.

“They feel pretty heavy,” he said. “This past couple of days has been pretty overwhelming, but it’s been a lot of fun, really exciting to be here and see all my friends, family, and friends and especially my coach again. He’s been with me this whole process.”

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The long-distance swimmer is the first American man to win the 1,500-meter freestyle race since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He also captured gold in the 800-meter freestyle race.

Carolyn Drinkard brought her twin 6-year-old boys who she says have taken swim lessons with one of Finke’s older sisters, Autumn.

“They love to swim and they wanted to get their special swimsuits so they can swim fast like Bobby,” she said.

Finke told 8 On Your Side his college season competing for the University of Florida Gators helped prepare him for the unique circumstances in Tokyo due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“During college, we couldn’t have any spectators,” he said. “It was just the athletes, but even then it was still really loud.”

The fastest long-distance swimmer from Team USA described the pride of standing on the podium while the National Anthem played.

“Felt on top of the world,” Finke said. “You know being able to stand up there hand on the heart and just standing, staring at the flag, singing the words, it’s a huge massive dream come true. I don’t think I’d ever thought I’d win an Olympic gold medal.”

The 21-year-old said he hopes to represent his country again at the Paris Summer Olympics in 2024 and he hinted at another goal of making Team USA in 2028 when the summer games return to the U.S. in Los Angeles.

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