Chase Kalisz kept his cell phone in airplane mode Saturday, hoping to avoid distractions as he prepared for the race of his life — the 400-meter individual medley final in the Olympic.
When he finally turned it on, in the middle of a press conference with his Japanese rivals, Kosuke Hagino and Daiya Seto, it rang over and over.
Such is the life of an Olympic silver medalist.
“It’s a dream come true,” he said Sunday afternoon, about 18 hours after he’d swum the fastest 400 IM of his life in finishing second to Hagino.
Kalisz also had to wear make-up on Sunday morning when he appeared on NBC, another new experience.
The first-time Olympian from Bel Air took his parents, Cathy and Mike, to each of his media appearances, where he received questions about everything from doping to Katie Ledecky’s medal chances.
He traded messages with each of his three siblings, including his older sister, Courtney, the first great swimmer he aspired to beat.
“I was very proud of all her success, but I wanted some off it too,” he recalled. “I wanted to be like her and then I wanted to get past her.”
His next target was the biggest of all, his club teammate and eventual mentor, Michael Phelps.
Phelps sent Kalisz a text message saying how proud he was after Saturday night’s race. Then he wrapped him in a congratulatory hug when Kalisz finally got back to the suite they’re sharing in the Olympic Village.
“He knows I gave my best effort,” Kalisz said.
Bob Bowman, the coach they share, offered similar sentiments.
“He told me how proud he was of me,” Kalisz said. “It was very meaningful to see him after the race. I have him a big hug. We’ve had a long journey. There have been ups and downs, but we always kind of believed in each other.”
Kalisz, who will return to the University of Georgia for his senior year, plans to swim four more years with an eye on competing in the Tokyo Olympics.
If form holds, he’ll also continue his friendly rivalry with Seto and Hagino, which began back at Junior World Championships in Peru.
Though Kalisz doesn’t speak Japanese, he can count on hugs from his contemporaries, whether he beats them or they beat him.
“They’re good guys,” he said.