RIO DE JANEIRO — A year ago, Chase Kalisz packed up his college life at the University of Georgia and moved to the desert to train with world-renowned Olympian Michael Phelps and long-time coach Bob Bowman at Arizona State.
That move paid off Saturday night when Kalisz took home silver for the United States in the 400-meter individual medley, the U.S. swim team’s first medal in the Rio Olympics.
“I’ve always dreamt of being an Olympian, and then becoming a medalist (Saturday) night was just even more exciting on top of all that,” Kalisz said at a press conference Sunday.
Kalisz earned his first Olympic medal with a time of 4:06.75, a few seconds clear of his previous best time.
“I gave my best effort (Saturday) night and did everything possible that I could,” Kalisz said. “I am very proud of myself for accomplishing that goal and being able to drop 3 seconds like that.”
In the beginning of the year, Kalisz said he and Bowman thought it would take about a 4:06 to win. Kalisz said spending every day with Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all-time, helped keep him motivated to work toward his goal each day. Phelps was among the first to congratulate Kalisz after his race.
“He texted me how proud he was of me and that I swam an incredible race and he knows I gave my best effort,” Kalisz said. “He knows that I prepared all year for this one moment and in some sense, I accomplished what I wanted to and he was there for the whole ride of it.”
Kalisz, who missed the gold won by Japan’s Kosuke Hagino by 0.7 seconds, thanked Bowman for all that his coach did to get him to this moment.
“If I could look back on this year of what I wanted to accomplish and the goals that I set with Bob at the beginning of the year, we’re pretty close to meeting every single one of them,” Kalisz said. “There has been ups and downs, and I know I’m not that easy to work with, but he has stuck with me and I stuck with him and we both kind of believed in each other and trusted the process.”
As for the next Summer Olympics, in Tokyo in 2020, Kalisz sounds ready to get back into the pool.
“I’m more driven than ever after last night,” Kalisz said. “I’m going to try to set myself up the next four years to be in a position to contend for a gold medal again.”