Georgia swimmers Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland finished first and second, respectively, in the 400-meter individual medley at the United States Olympic Trials on Sunday to qualify for the Rio Games.
Kalisz posted a time of 4:09.54, followed by Litherland in 4:11.02. Each swimmer ran down Ryan Lochte over the last 200 meters as the former Florida standout finished third in 4:12.02.
Kalisz and Litherland are the first American swimmers from Georgia to qualify for the Olympics, which will be held Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They will join Canada’s Javier Acevedo, Brittany MacLean and Chantal Van Landeghem and Finland’s Matias Koski.
“It honestly hasn’t sunk in yet,” Kalisz said. “I can’t even describe what I feel right now. The time wasn’t great, but it doesn’t matter because I got on the team. … I never doubted Jay for a second. He’s one of the hardest working guys out there and he did an awesome job.”
“It’s because of all the training this year,” Litherland said. “I want to give a shout-out to my coaches, my teammates and my family for all their support. I really want to thank them for all of that.”
Sunday’s final also featured rising junior Gunnar Bentz, who placed fourth in 4:13.72.
“This is a dream come true for these guys. Heck, it’s a dream come true for their coach,” Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle said. “It’s the best feeling in the world when someone achieves what he’s been trying to do since he was a kid. To go first and second and have three of the top four at a meet of this magnitude is unheard of. I’m just speechless. It’s one of the happiest days I’ve ever had.”
After Sunday’s race, Kalisz was greeted on deck by training partner Michael Phelps, who holds the record with 22 Olympic medals.
“Chase is like a brother to me,” Phelps said. “He deserves it. He trained so hard for it. I was holding back tears giving him a hug after the race. I’m just so proud of him.”
Kalisz redshirted in 2015-16 to train for the Trials and the Games, and he will be a senior for 2016-17. Litherland is a rising junior for the Bulldogs.
In other events on Sunday:
• Hali Flickinger qualified for Monday’s 100-meter butterfly finals with an eighth-place effort of 58.81
• Laura Ryan came in third on the women’s 3-meter springboard at the United States Diving Trials in Indianapolis. The top two finishers advanced to the Rio Games.