TOKYO (AP) — Chase Kalisz got things rolling, claiming the first U.S. gold at the Olympic pool.
By the time the morning was done, the powerhouse team had six medals.
“I’m happy to be here and kick the U.S. off,” said Kalisz, who won the 400-meter individual medley.
Kalisz was the first U.S. medal winner of the Tokyo Games, and Jay Litherland — who was born in Osaka — made it a 1-2 finish for the Americans by rallying on the freestyle leg to claim the silver. Brendon Smith of Australia earned the bronze.
Kalisz spoke with reporter Jack Doles about what it meant to win gold for Team USA. You can watch their full conversation above.
The U.S. women did their part, too.
Japan’s Yui Ohashi won gold in the women’s 400 IM with an electric breaststroke leg, but two Americans were right in her wake. Emma Weyant earned the silver, while the bronze went to Hali Flickinger.
“After we saw (Kalisz and Litherland go 1-2), we kind of looked at each other and said, ‘It’s our turn,’” Weyant said. “I think that really got our team going.””
Kalisz, a protégé and former training partner of Phelps, touched first in 4:09.42. Litherland was next in 4:10.28, just one-10th of a second ahead of Brendon Smith.
Kalisz flexed his muscles and then climbed atop the lane rope, splashing the water while a contingent of his teammates cheered him from the stands at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
“U-S-A! U-S-A!” they chanted.
Kalisz was the silver medalist in the grueling event at the Rio Games five years ago. Now, at age 27, he’s the best in the world at using all four strokes.
“That one was the most special type of pain,” Kalisz said. “I had vowed that I was going to make that hurt as much as possible and give my absolute best to accomplish this.”