American Record in 400 IM Propels Chase Kalisz to Next Step

Georgia's Chase Kalisz. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

NCAA DI editorial coverage is proudly sponsored by Adidas. Visit for more information on our sponsor. For all the latest coverage, check out our event coverage page. 650x90 CLICK HERE FOR LIVE RESULTS

By David Rieder.

In 2015, Chase Kalisz arrived at the NCAA championships in Iowa City, Iowa, as the two-time defending NCAA champion and American record-holder in the 400 IM. But Kalisz was off that weekend, and he finished more than three seconds behind Will Licon and five seconds off his best time in his signature event.

Two years and one Olympic medal later, Kalisz has again redefined the limits of imagination in the short course yards version of his signature race—even if he’s not convinced his time of 3:33.42 is all that impressive in the grand scheme of things.

“Records are always nice, but short course, they don’t really make much sense to me,” he said. “I don’t think that’s anywhere comparable to my 4:06.”

Kalisz, of course, was referring to the 4:06.75 he swam on his way to an Olympic silver medal in Rio, the course in which he judges himself and compares himself to the rest of the world.

So even after his disappointing NCAAs junior year, it was failing to improve at the World Championships that summer that crushed Kalisz. In the 400 IM at that meet, he won a bronze medal in 4:10.05, eight tenths slower than he had swum at the same meet two years earlier.

As soon as he got home from Kazan, Russia, Kalisz had the aid of the great Michael Phelps in translating his disappointment into motivation.

“Right after that meet I got a text from Michael, and he said, ‘Let’s go to workout.’ It was a Sunday, three days after World Championships,” Kalisz said.

Kalisz was in Tempe, Ariz., preparing to spend a year training alongside Phelps under Bob Bowman in hopes of making his first Olympic team. There would be no reclamation of his NCAA title—all long course, all the time.

It worked.

Kalisz made his first Olympic team in the 400 IM and made it to his first Olympic final as the No. 1 qualifier. He swam well behind the Japanese duo of Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto for the first 200 yards but made a run on the breaststroke leg, turning for the final 100 meters just behind Hagino.

For a few brief moments, it looked as though Kalisz might catch up and win Olympic gold, but he had to settle for a No. 2 finish and becoming the first-fastest performance in history.

“The best thing that happened to me was getting a silver medal,” Kalisz said. “It will probably motivate me until the next Olympics. It’s something I’m not going to forget, being as close as I was. I think I swam the perfect race, and I don’t know how much faster I could have gone at the Olympic Games, but I’m not going to be completely satisfied.”

The night he won an Olympic silver medal, Kalisz explained that he was gung-ho to return to training, but that didn’t mean he had the smoothest fall and winter as he battled a bit of post-Olympic malaise.

“This hasn’t been the easiest year,” Kalisz said. “It never really is post-Olympic year. You just have to stay mentally focused. There’s a lot of things I would like to have done differently this year and I think I could have perfected, but I’m here now, I’m happy with my progress, and I’m looking forward to my career post-NCAAs and hopefully making a spot this summer.”

Yes, already, Kalisz has his sights set on his forthcoming professional career and the push to the next Olympic Games. He explained that he has at least another year at Georgia as he finishes his requirements towards graduation, but he’s not sure yet where he will be living and training after that.

But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some deep meaning to what he accomplished in what he thinks could be his final short course 400 IM, particularly as he swam in the final with fellow Georgia Bulldogs Jay Litherland and Gunnar Bentz.

“I’m happy with the time and how I put the race together,” Kalisz said. “The titles are always nice, and at the end of the day it’s just a piece of hardware. I’m more proud of how Jay and Gunnar did. I got to race with those two every single day in workout, and those two are a big part of my life. It meant a lot to have both of them in the final.”

Kalisz was proud, too, of putting himself in the right frame of mind before he swam his 3:33, more than 2.5 seconds faster than any other man in history. After all, he was just a day removed from a disappointing fifth-place finish in the 200 IM.

“I was really in a bad place after my 200 IM and even before my nap,” he said. “I really didn’t feel that great this morning. I laid down, and I had all these bad, negative feelings going through my head. I woke up and said, ‘I got one more to go. Why not go for it and see what happens?’”

He went for it, and the entire country saw exactly what happened. Kalisz has one more NCAA event to go, his so-called fun event in the 200 fly—a race he feels more prepared to tackle after his redshirt experience.

“I feel a lot better than I previously have going into the third day,” he said. “I think my training last year mentally prepared me for swimming multiple events.”

And when that’s over, Kalisz will head back to his comfort zone—all long course, all the time.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. Jabbar Prince Rind

    <3 Swimming World ❌ ADD ME CLOS ❌ <3
    ? ✔✔ ✔✔ ?

  2. Susan L. Lansbury

    He’s gonna do even more amazing things!