Former Georgia swimming star and Olympic silver medalist Chase Kalisz can’t quite explain what’s happening. But it’s hard to argue with the results.
At the Arena Pro Swim Series meet this past weekend at Georgia Tech’s McAuley Aquatics Center, Kalisz won all four of his events, the 200- and 400-meter individual medleys and the 200 breaststroke and 200 butterfly. Kalisz, from Bel Air, Md., swam personal bests in the 200 IM (1:57.21) and the 200 breaststroke (2:10.74). His times in the 200 butterfly (1:55.94) and the 400 IM (4:09.33) were just off his personal record and his fastest time during a training period. His 200 IM time was the fourth fastest ever by an American.
“So I’m happy with this meet,” he said Sunday after winning the grueling 200 butterfly and then the 200 IM less than an hour later.
It bodes well for the remainder of the summer season and perhaps for the remainder of his career. Kalisz, who won three NCAA individual titles at Georgia, could be the American swimmer who takes the mantle of world-beater in the individual medley events where Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte dueled for several years.
In explaining his surge, Kalisz said that, in recent weeks, he has begun “learning kind of just how to be my person and follow my own path” and that “I kind of feel more of an individuality right now.” He couldn’t quite pinpoint what that meant, but the bottom line is easy to understand.
“I’m loving the excitement of it all and swimming feels fresh to me for the first time since I can remember,” he said.
The performances would indicate as much. The fact that Kalisz is hitting PR’s at this point on the calendar is fairly remarkable. National- and world-class U.S. swimmers are training to hit their peak at the national championship meet that starts in late June. Kalisz, who has completed his eligibility at Georgia but will remain in Athens for the next academic year to train with Bulldogs coach Jack Bauerle and complete his degree work, said he had just completed a “pretty hard week of training” prior to coming to Atlanta for the four-day meet.
“I would say this compares to when I was 15, 16,” he said. “It’s like I feel like I can get in the water and go a best time any moment, where I kind of had a mental block for a while where I thought that I could only swim fast when I was rested. And now I really have nothing hold me back mentally. I really am enjoying swimming more than I ever have in my entire life.”
Kalisz, who took silver in the 2016 Olympics in the 400 IM, will kick up his training even more. Monday, he was to fly to Colorado Springs, Colo., to train at USA Swimming’s high-altitude training center with club coach Bob Bowman, who gained renown for developing Michael Phelps.
Kalisz, who trained with Phelps at North Baltimore Aquatic Club, has developed a similar versatility. In his Georgia career, he finished with top-five times in school history in five different events.
“I swam with Michael my entire life, and the keystone of Michael’s swimming career is being incredibly versatile,” Kalisz said. “That’s what I’ve always wanted to be and that’s how I’ve always trained.”
It’s three more years until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Kalisz isn’t even sure what events he’ll swim at the USA Swimming national championships, let alone have clear thoughts on the Olympics. But he’s certainly in the picture to be a versatile star of the U.S. team.
“I don’t really have nerves now,” he said. “It’s more so like I step up to the blocks and I’m excited. I’m excited to see what type of challenges that I can push myself to and set hefty goals at these meets and see if I can accomplish them.”