ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA)— “Super proud, I’m going to cry,” Bobby’s dad Joe Finke muttered with tears down his face just moments after his son broke the American record.
On Tuesday morning, Clearwater Olympian Bobby Finke jumped in the pool at the Olympic qualifiers in Tokyo and broke an American record.
Finke finished 3rd in the qualifying heats for the men’s 800-meter freestyle event at the Tokyo Olympics.
Finke finished the race in 7:42.72, behind Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuck (7:41.28) and Germany’s Florian Wellbrock (7:41.77).
Finke is set to advance to the final, which will take place Wednesday, July 28 at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Finke’s parents said the 21-year-old spent most of his swimming career at North Shore Aquatic Complex in St. Petersburg.
To put the 800-meter-freestyle into perspective, the pool at North Shore is 50 meters long, so that is like swimming from one end to the other 16 times.
The Clearwater native went to Countryside High and is now a Senior and swims at the University of Florida.
At 21-years old, he stands just over 6 feet tall. His nickname from childhood is “Wildman.”
“Because he’s not afraid to do anything,” said his dad Joe Finke.
“The lifeguards would say Bobby is coming, we have to put another lifeguard in the chair! haha,” his mother, Jeanne Finke said.
The Finkes said their son started swimming before the age of 1 and began competitively swimming at 6 years old.
Bobby’s sisters Summer and Autumn, also love swimming. In 2016 all three siblings went to the Olympic Trials.
After Bobby arrived in Tokyo, he received a video of his friends and family members chanting his name. Aside from that, they’re trying to let him live in the moment.
“Try not to bother him at all. We say good night, I love you,” his father said.
Before the event, Joe said he was excited and nervous and hoped Bobby just performed his best. His mother, Jeanne was mostly concerned about the situation outside the pool.
“I’m worried about the team as a whole with covid and the leak throughs. I just want him to be happy and do the best he can. Everything else is icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned,” she said.
Since Bobby made it through the 800 m free qualifiers Tuesday morning, he’ll advance to the finals on Wednesday.
Finke is also competing in the men’s 1500 freestyle qualifiers a few days later.
“He’s my champion no matter what!” said Jeanne.
“As I tell others – making the team is the ice cream sundae, the finals are the whipped cream on top, getting a medal is a cherry on top of the sundae!” said Joe.
More importantly than being a good swimmer, his parents said he’s a good person.
“He does not brag, he’s not boastful. He’s confident in himself, he knows what he can do, what he has-do, and he’s willing to do it,” said Joe.
Bobby’s mom watched the event at home with his sisters. 8 On Your Side watched the event poolside at North Shore Pool with Bobby’s dad who is also a swim coach for St.Pete Aquatics.