By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Saturday, August 6, 2016
RIO DE JANEIRO – The Olympic Games.
From the tiniest age group swimmer, to the seasoned veteran, it’s the ultimate dream of any kid who has ever dove off a starting block and struggled with a 50-yard freestyle, or spent years in the pool perfecting his stroke.
There are 31 rookies on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. For those swimmers, their dream officially became reality today, as the swimming competition kicked off in Rio.
Chase Kalisz was one of six rookies who swam in this afternoon’s prelim session. As a group, the first-timers fared well, each finishing among the top eight in their fields and qualifying to swim in the finals or semifinals of their events.
Kalisz qualified for tonight’s finals as the top seed in the men’s 400m IM, turning in the fastest time in the world this year in 4:08.12.
“I’m just excited to represent my country,” Kalisz said. “That’s the biggest honor of all, and that’s why we’re all here, to do it for the USA. At (Olympic) Trials, I was operating on nerves, which is never a good thing for me. I’m operating on excitement right now, just enjoying being here. That’s the big difference.”
Jay Litherland, Kalisz’s teammate at the University of Georgia, qualified fourth for tonight’s finals in the 400m IM in 4:11.10
“I was pretty nervous before the race,” Litherland said. “In the ready room, I couldn’t stop shaking, but once I got on the deck, I just kind of went auto pilot. It’s super intense with all the different swimmers from all over the world.”
Kelsi Worrell, who qualified fourth in 56.97 for tonight’s semifinals in the women’s 100m butterfly, said the reality of swimming in the Olympic Games set in sometime in the middle of her race this afternoon.
“I think I really got to enjoy it,” Worrell said. “In the middle of it, I was like, ‘I’m in the Olympics. I’m swimming in the Olympics!’
“There’s just so much less stress and pressure here than at the (Olympic)Trials. We’re all together. Team USA is one unit, and that just gives me a lot more confidence, and I’m just able to really enjoy it a lot more.”
Want to start working toward your Olympic dreams? Join USA Swimming by finding a club in your area at swimtoday.org.
Here’s a look at some of the things to watch in each of tonight’s finals. Medals are on the line in four events: the men’s 400m IM, the men’s 400m freestyle, the women’s 400m IM and the women’s 400m free relay.
Men’s 400m IM
1. Chase Kalisz, USA, 4:08.12
2. Daiya Seto, JPN, 4:08.47;
3. Kosuke Hagino, JPN, 4:10.00
4. Jay Litherland, USA, 4:11.10
The U.S. has won gold in this event at the last five Olympic Games. Kalisz and Litherland, both swimming in their first Olympic final, are looking to keep that streak alive. Kalisz’s time was the fastest in the world this year. They will face stiff competition from the Japanese swimmers. Seto is the reigning world champion, and Hagino had the fastest time in the world this year coming in to Rio at 4:08.85.
Men’s 400m Freestyle
1. Conor Dwyer, USA, 3:43.42
2. Mack Horton, AUS, 3:43.84
3. Gabriele Detti, ITA, 3:43.95
7. Connor Jaeger, USA, 3:45.37
Dwyer and Jaeger will be looking to bring home the United States’ first gold in the 400m freestyle since George DiCarlo’s victory in 1984. Dwyer finished fifth in this event at the last Olympic Games in London and is the top seed heading into tonight’s finals. Mack Horton is the second seed and owns the fastest time in the world this year in 3:41.65. Jaeger won this event in June at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Omaha.
Women’s 400m IM
1. Katinka Hosszu, HUN, 4:28.58
2. Mireia Belmonte Garcia, ESP, 4:32.75
3. Maya DiRado, USA, 4:33.50
6. Elizabeth Beisel, USA, 4:34.38
Coming off a hot Olympic Trials in which she won three events, Maya DiRado is the third seed heading into tonight’s finals of the women’s 400m IM. She is a rookie competing in her first Olympic final. Hosszu’s qualifying time was just 15-hundredths of a second off the world record set by Ye Shiwen at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The U.S. has medaled in this event in three straight Games, including Beisel’s silver in 2012. The last time the U.S. won Olympic gold in the women’s 400m IM was Janet Evans in 1988.
Women’s 400m Free Relay
1. Australia, 3:32.39 (Olympic Record)
2. USA (Amanda Weir, Lia Neal, Allison Schmitt, Katie Ledecky), 3:33.59
3. Canada, 3:33.84
Australia broke the Olympic record in prelims to capture the top seed, more than a second faster than the Americans. Look for a few different swimmers to swim in tonight’s finals for the Americans, including Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel, who finished 1-2 at Trials in the 100m free. Ledecky, who had the third-fastest split in the whole field, will likely be added to tonight’s finals. The final line-up will be released an hour before competition.