Olympic gold medalist has Danville ties

Published 9:00 am Friday, August 6, 2021

Two-time gold medalist swimmer in this year’s Olympics in Tokyo, 21-year-old Bobby Finke, is a native of Florida, but he has family ties with Danville through his mom, uncles, an aunt by marriage, and his late grandparents.

Finke’s first gold medal was in the men’s 800-meter freestyle; the second medal was earned when he won the men’s 1,500 freestyle.

According to SwimSwam magazine, “Finke put an exclamation mark on his first Olympic final, winning the first-ever Olympic iteration of the men’s 800 free. Finke was running 5th for most of the race, even at the 750 mark. Then he turned on the jets, coming home in 26.3 and passing four competitors in the last 25 meters to touch first and earn Olympic gold.

“Finke did it again in the 1500, sticking with the pack through the whole race and turning it on the last 50, coming home in 25.7 in the last 50 to touch first at 14:39.65, earning his second gold of the Games and the first for USA in the 1500 since 1984.”

Bobby Finke’s mom, the former Jeanne Williams, is the daughter of the late Richard and Gloria Williams, who moved to Danville from Madison, Indiana, soon after she graduated high school in 1974. They lived on Carrigan Drive.

In 1979 her younger brothers, Todd and Scott Williams graduated from Danville High School where they were both on the swim team. Todd and Scott attended the University of Kentucky and Scott continued his swimming career by playing on the UK water polo team.

Jeanne was a teacher at Mary G. Hogsett Elementary School from August 1979 through December 1980. Jeanne said she was also the Danville High School girls’ and boys’ swim team coach during the same time.

Jeanne Finke married Joe Finke at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Danville in the early 1980s.

Jeanne said her son, Bobby, never visited Danville, but his grandparents visited the Finke family in Florida when Bobby was an infant. Her parents died in 2003 and are buried in Belleview Cemetery, Jeanne said.

Jeanne said she was “extremely nervous, proud, happy and thrilled,” as she watched Bobby compete in the Olympics. When he swam the 800-meter event, “We were all at home watching as a family,” which includes his older sisters, Summer and Autumn, who were also distance swimmers in college. In fact Bobby and his sisters also all qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials.

For the 1500-meter event, “Summer and Autumn went to the watch party up in Orlando. Joe and I went to the watch party at the Northshore Pool in St. Petersburg, where Joe is a swim coach.

“We all cried when he won the gold.”