TOKYO — Bobby Finke of the United States captured gold in the debut of the men’s 800-meter swimming freestyle event at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri grabbed the silver after leading most of the race, while the bronze went to Mykhailo Romachuk of Ukraine.
It was a thrilling finish. Germany’s Florian Wellbrock grabbed the lead from Paltrinieri on the final flip, with Finke lurking back in fourth. But the American turned on a dazzling burst of speed at the end of the 16-lap race, passing all three swimmers ahead of him to take the gold.
Finke’s winning time was 7 minutes, 41.87 seconds, just 0.24 ahead of Paltrinieri. Romachuk finished in 7:42.33, knocking Wellbrock back to fourth.
The men’s 800 freestyle was added to the Olympic program for the Tokyo Games, marking the first time that approximate distance was contested by the men since there was an 880-yard race at the 1904 St. Louis Games.
Earlier, Katie Ledecky got her first gold medal of these Olympics, while Simone Biles pulled out of another event she came into the Games favored to win.
Ledecky bounced back from losses in her first two events in Tokyo to win the inaugural 1,500-meter freestyle for women by more than 4 seconds on Wednesday.
The victory came about after Ledecky finished fifth in the 200-meter freestyle for her worst finish ever at an Olympics. Ledecky came into the Games with five gold medals but finished second to Australia’s Ariarne Titmus in the 400 free and then failed to medal in the 200 that Titmus also won.
“I think people maybe feel bad for me that I’m not winning everything and whatever, but I want people to be more concerned about other things going on in the world, people that are truly suffering,” Ledecky said. “I’m just proud to bring home a gold medal to Team USA.”
Biles, the American gymnastics superstar, withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.
The organization said Biles will be evaluated daily before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events. Biles qualified for the finals on all four apparatuses, something she didn’t even do during her five-medal haul in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around.