2020 Tokyo Olympics: Team USA Takes Home First Medals in Swimming

by Suzanne Halliburton
2020-tokyo-olympics-team-usa-takes-home-first-medals-swimming

United States, celebrate your first gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics. Add a silver, too.

The U.S. men’s swim team supplied the hardware with a one-two finish in the 400 individual medley. And coincidentally, it was a protege of Michael Phelps who won the gold medal — Chase Kalisz. And Jay Litherland, Kalisz’s training partner at the University of Georgia, won the silver.

The Team USA Twitter account celebrated the sweep:

“All hail @chasekalisz!”

American Swimmers Should Dominate at Tokyo Olympics

It was the first two of what will be many medals won by the Americans at the Tokyo Olympics. Minutes after the men swam the 400 I.M., the women competed at that distance. And the American women won silver and bronze. Emma Weyant, a 19-year-old, won the silver medal, followed by fellow American Hali Flickinger.

The American swim team, both the men and women, are world powerhouses. And they started the swimming finals Sunday morning in Tokyo, but early evening Saturday in the United States.

Kalisz, who like Michael Phelps grew up in Maryland, won the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Games. He was the overwhelming champion at the Tokyo Olympics. He always refers to Phelps, who won more Olympic medals than any other athlete in the world, as his “big brother.”

The 400 individual medley is an ironman event. You have to show speed and strength in each of the strokes — backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke and freestyle.

Kalisz, 27, finished the event in 4 minutes and 9.42 seconds. He was in second after the first two strokes, but finished with an overwhelming kick.

Then, with his hand over his heart, Kalisz blinked back tears as he stood atop the medal podium as the Star Spangled Banner played. He then hugged his teammate. He’ll have another chance for a medal in the 200 IM.

Kalisz was so zapped from his time in the pool he could barely speak with NBC Sports. But he did manage to describe the feelings he had after touching the wall in first place.

“It means the world,” Kalisz said. “This is the last thing I really wanted to accomplish in my swimming career.  It was something that was a dream of mine since as long as I could remember.”

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Kalisz’s parents couldn’t be there in person to cheer on their son at the Tokyo Olympics. Instead, they watched from their living room back home in Maryland.

Jay Litherland also was able to see his parents.

“I did it guys,” Litherland said. “I did it.”

The 400 IM was a disappointment for the local fans at the Tokyo Olympics. Daiya Seto, the Japanese star who was the top-seed in the event, failed to make it to the finals. He was the reigning world champion, but he missed qualifying for the top eight by .39. He finished fifth in his heat and ninth in the semifinals.

In the next final — the 400 freestyle — American Kieran Smith won the bronze.

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