A Medley Mirror: Chase Kalisz & Jay Litherland On Road to Tokyo After 400 IM Redux

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

A Medley Mirror: Chase Kalisz & Jay Litherland On Road to Tokyo After 400 IM Redux

In a race that was billed as the coming out party for 19-year-old Carson Foster in the 400 IM, it was deja vu for the top two in the event with Georgia Bulldogs Chase Kalisz (4:09.09) and Jay Litherland (4:10.33) getting the spots for Tokyo, mirroring what they did in 2016.

Foster was third at 4:10.86 after leading for the first 250 meters.

Foster took the race out hard and at the 200, held a two second lead over the field with a 1:58.63 with Litherland (2:00.87) and Kalisz (2:01.57) in second and fourth. Kalisz jumped on the breaststroke leg, which has been his calling card for his entire career as he split a 33.9 on the first 50 and closed the gap on Foster, who still held the lead at 2:33.98 to Kalisz’s 2:35.52. But the Rio silver medalist closed hard and took the lead at the 300 at 3:09.82 with Foster in second at 3:10.03.

The entire talk around the day of this event was how big of a lead the field needed to have to hold off the likes of Litherland and Florida’s Bobby Finke. Litherland turned third at 3:12.97 and Finke was fifth at 3:14.23 at the 300, and both of them split under 29 seconds on the first 50 of freestyle as Litherland started inching closer and closer to Foster and Kalisz.

Litherland’s final 100 of 57.36 was the difference as it was a deja vu moment for the Omaha crowd and the swimming community as it was almost identical to his final 100 from the 2016 Trials when he ran down Ryan Lochte. Foster’s final 100 of 1:00.83 was not enough to hold off the reigning Worlds silver medalist as he finished in third in his first Trials A-Final.

“I was talking to Jay, it was just like 2016!” Chase Kalisz said in his press conference. “I look up and see Jay touch and it’s like I forget the entire race! That’s one of my best buddies and my training partners and it means the world to go 1-2 with him.”

Kalisz and Litherland both put their arms around Foster and offered words of advice for the rising talent.

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“As far as Carson, he has nothing to worry about,” Kalisz said. “He is one of the most talented kids that I’ve come across. He clearly has three strokes that are better than me; he just needs to re-strategize how his race goes. I was really lucky to have Michael (Phelps) in my upbringing go over those things. The 400 IM is that ultimate race that counts more than any race with ‘who is better at what stroke?’ I think he is right there and has a bright future. That was probably my last 400 IM at Trials. I never want to count myself out but I don’t see myself doing that at 30 so I think Carson has a bright future and I think he is doing a lot of things right.

“I was proud of these guys,” Kalisz and Litherland’s coach Jack Bauerle said. “I was elated with the 1-2 but like any coach, you watch your athletes and how they act immediately after. I was proud they went over to Carson and did what they did. It was a pretty neat moment and those are powerful times… You like to expect it, but you love when it happens because it’s spontaneous and when things happen like that that’s when it is best.”

Kalisz and Litherland will officially be off to their second Olympic Games with their performances as they are ranked second and sixth in the world among those that have qualified for Tokyo.

Chase Kalisz, who has been the face of IM in the United States since 2016, will be looking to upgrade his silver from Rio in this event as he won the gold at the 2017 Worlds and had the fastest time in the world in 2018. He is ranked second in the world for 2021 behind Japan’s Daiya Seto (4:09.02) who won the 2019 Worlds and has had the upper hand over Kalisz at the 2013 and 2015 Worlds.

“(The 400 IM) is always going to be my baby. As much as I tell myself I’m a 200 IM’er, which I have been fairly successful with in the past, I think since I overcame my shoulder injury, I have embraced that event. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be doing it I went in today and I didn’t really have nerves. I did come to the pool early and I’m sitting there and I couldn’t et to the warm up pool. I’m sitting in the ready room and it was more excitement than nerves. It’s hard to have those feelings for that event. I’m very much looking forward to doing one more in Tokyo.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Kalisz admitted in his post race interview that he had undergone shoulder surgery in December 2018, which would answer some questions surrounding his A-final miss at the 2019 Worlds. But this race tonight marked the end of a long road for him in his pursuit of the gold medal in Tokyo.

“It was a mental thing for me,” Kalisz said. “It was hard for me to overcome because I had never really dealt with injuries. All the credit in the world goes to (Jack) for sticking with me and everything that comes along with coaching me. We had a pretty good year this year and we are really happy with how things worked out.

“It’s difficult because you can’t do the things you would like to do sometimes,” Bauerle said. “To Chase’s credit he worked through it and when you get a little bit older, you will get some bumps and bruises you didn’t have before and we have to adjust. It’s not uncommon. Tough guys figure it out and you have to be tough when it counts.”

Litherland is now sixth globally this year as he finished fifth in Rio in the 400 IM and also won silver at the 2019 Worlds.

Carson Foster had actually been faster this morning at 4:10.50 as he swam his second fastest time of his career in finals tonight. Finke finished in fourth at 4:11.44, improving on his best time as Jake Foster was fifth at 4:13.74, breaking 4:15 for the first time.

Results:

  1. Chase Kalisz, 4:09.09
  2. Jay Litherland, 4:10.33
  3. Carson Foster, 4:10.86
  4. Bobby Finke, 4:11.44
  5. Jake Foster, 4:13.74
  6. David Johnston, 4:16.81
  7. Michael Daly, 4:19.05
  8. Sam Stewart, 4:22.83

World Rankings (Tokyo qualifiers)

  1. 4:09.02, Daiya Seto, JPN
  2. 4:09.09, Chase Kalisz, USA
  3. 4:09.87, Lewis Clareburt, NZL
  4. 4:10.02, Ilia Borodin, RUS
  5. 4:10.04, Brendon Smith, AUS
  6. 4:10.33, Jay Litherland, USA
  7. 4:11.17, Alberto Razzetti, ITA
  8. 4:11.56, Max Litchfield, GBR
  9. 4:11.88, Yuki Ikari, JPN
  10. 4:12.03, Wang Shun, CHN