If Chase Kalisz was remotely nervous for the first Olympic swim of his life, he did not show it.
The 22-year-old from Bel Air shaved more than a second off his personal best time in the 400-meter individual medley, winning his afternoon preliminary heat and earning the top seed for Saturday night’s final.
“I didn’t expect to go anywhere near that,” he said. “I was very shocked after I turned around, which I guess is a good thing.”
He posted a better time, 4 minutes, 8.12 seconds, than Daiya Seto or Kosuke Hagino, the two Japanese swimmers expected to be his toughest competition for medals.
Kalisz and Seto staged an exciting duel in the final preliminary heat, with Seto taking a substantial lead on the butterfly and backstroke legs only for Kalisz to catch him on the breaststroke leg, the American swimmer’s specialty. They battled side by side on the closing freestyle leg, with Kalisz touching the wall just ahead.
But Kalisz seemed confident he hadn’t expended too much energy by going so fast in a preliminary.
“I feel like I’m in a good place moving forward,” he said.
His mentor and training partner, Michael Phelps, advised him to “treat it like a normal swim meet.”
But this wasn’t normal for Kalisz. It was better. And he knows he’ll have to do it again if he wants to beat Hagino and Seto for gold.