As Usain Bolt reminded the world Sunday, it’s not about who has the best start, but rather who has the fastest finish. Jordan Wilimovsky learned that lesson the hard way.
The ultra-confident Jamaican sprinter didn’t lead the men’s 100-meter dash final early on, but he blitzed past his competitors in the final portion of the race Sunday to capture first place in the event for the third consecutive Olympics.
Wilimovsky, meanwhile, had a different experience in the pool. The 22-year-old Team Santa Monica swimmer was in medal contention late in the men’s 1,500-meter final, but he sputtered after a brilliant beginning.
Wilimovsky finished with a time of 14 minutes 45.03 seconds, putting him in fourth place in Rio de Janeiro — one spot away from the podium.
“I just figured I’d go for it, and if I die I die,” Wilimovsky, an accomplished member of the locally based swimming club, told the Chicago Tribune. “I saw [Italian competitor Gabriele Detti] coming the last 300 and I’m hurting bad. I went out really hard. But he had a great race. I had two [personal bests] in the preliminaries and finals so I was pretty happy with that.”
Gregorio Paltrinieri seized gold for Italy with a time of 14:34.57, U.S. entrant Connor Jaeger clocked a 14:39.48 to take silver and Detti (14:40.86) touched the wall third. Wilimovsky came in a little more than four seconds later.
It was an individual improvement for Wilimovsky, who swam a 14:48.23 in the preliminary round. His strategy in the final was to push out early and hope to be vying for a medal in the last few laps.
“I just went out for it at the start,” he said. “I was just thrilled to make the final in the first place.”
Wilimovsky, the first swimmer in U.S. history to qualify for the Olympics in pool and open-water events, is now done competing in Rio de Janeiro.
The former Malibu High School standout secured a bid to compete in men’s open-water racing at the 2016 Games in Rio by taking first place in the 10-kilometer event at last year’s FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia. He completed that course in 1 hour 49 minutes and 48.2 seconds, finishing about 12 seconds ahead of Dutch runner-up Ferry Weertman.
Wilimovsky, who took a break from his studies at Northwestern University in Illinois to prepare for the Olympics, has spent hours training with TSM coach Dave Kelsheimer.
Wilimovsky on Tuesday took fifth place in the 10k event with a time of 1:53.03.2 in the waters off Copacabana Beach. And he’s had direct assistance from Kelsheimer, who is serving as an assistant coach on the Team USA swimming staff in Rio.
In an interview with the Daily Press just prior to the Olympics, Kelsheimer downplayed concerns over the mosquito-borne Zika virus and the pollution levels in bodies of water in and around the host city.
“That’s all we can do — make sure we’re following the advice of experts and taking precautions,” he said.
As for Wilimovsky, he’s well aware of his unique position as a pool and open-water Olympian.
“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “Anytime you can represent the U.S. in multiple events is really cool.”