By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Saturday, August 6, 2016RIO de JANEIRO – One of the great things about the sport of swimming is that turning in the performance of your life can be exhilarating, even if the end result falls short of a gold medal.
Such was the case for each of the American medalists Saturday in the finals of the Olympic swimming competition.
The women’s 400m free relay set an American record.
Maya DiRado turned in a lifetime best and missed the American record in the women’s 400m IM by three-hundredths of a second.
Chase Kalisz swam his lifetime best by nearly a second and a half in the men’s 400m IM, becoming the fifth-fastest swimmer of all time in that event, and the third fastest American of all time behind a couple of guys named Phelps and Lochte.
But they all ended up with a silver medal. And while they weren’t necessarily satisfied – in the sense of being complacent – with their second-place finishes, they left the pool Saturday night with the satisfaction of knowing they gave their races everything they had, and did they best they’ve ever done.
That’s what sport, the Olympics – and especially swimming – are all about. Swimmers are constantly competing against not just other swimmers, but also themselves, with the clock as the impartial judge that measures their performances and progress precisely.
“I don’t think I could have gone any faster,” Kalisz said. “I 100 percent gave it everything I had. Honestly, at (Olympic) Trials, I didn’t think I would go 4:06. That was kind of a setback mentally, and everything kind of reset after this morning. I didn’t really nap too well. I kind of woke up and was like, I’m just going to give it my best effort and that’s all I can ask for. At the end of the day, I’m fine with that. I’m fine with getting a silver and knowing I did my best effort.”
Kalisz touched in 4:06.75, nearly a second and a half ahead of his previous lifetime best of 4:08.12, which he swam in this afternoon’s prelims. It was seven-tenths of a second behind Kosuke Hagino of Japan, and almost three seconds ahead of Japan’s Daiya Seto, who finished third in 4:09.71. American Jay Litherland finished fifth in 4:11.68.
It was both Americans’ first Olympic finals.
Prior to tonight’s competition, the U.S. had won gold in the 400m IM at the last five Olympic Games, a streak that encompasses Tom Dolan’s wins in 1996 and 2000, Michael Phelps’s wins in 2004 and 2008, and Ryan Lochte’s win in 2012.
While Kalisz was unable to keep that streak alive, he did help maintain the United States’ tradition of excellence in this event. The U.S. has now medaled in the 400m IM in all but two Olympics since the event was added in 1964 – the boycotted Games of 1980 and in 1984.
“Obviously, I’m aware of the streak of the U.S. and all of our IMers,” Kalisz said. “It dates back to Tom Dolan and Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and those are some of the best swimmers in U.S. history. I think I’m very happy with my time, and I know that I gave it my best effort and I got beat by a world-class competitor right here. Kosuke’s unbelievable, and I honestly gave my best effort, and I’m going to go to bed knowing that tonight. I have no regrets.“I think I’m in a good position to continue representing the USA. I know we have a lot of other up-and-coming swimmers. My goal is to focus on Tokyo (2020) and hopefully I’m lucky enough to be able to compete there, and give my best effort there.”
Maya DiRado posed similar thoughts after taking silver in the women’s 400m IM. She finished nearly five seconds behind Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, who set the world record by more than two seconds in 4:26.36. DiRado touched in 4:31.15, followed by Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain in 4:32.39. American Elizabeth Beisel was sixth in 4:34.98.
Women’s 400m IM
It was the first Olympic final for DiRado. Beisel, the Olympic silver medalist in this event in 2012, was competing in her third Olympics. The U.S. has now medaled in this event in three straight Games.
"I wasn't even worried about (Hosszu) being ahead,” DiRado said. “I was just looking around making sure that I would be on the podium. That's an amazing time. I looked at the board, and I was shocked for her, so congrats to Katinka, that's amazing.
"It was just a lot of pieces and a lot of hard work coming together after a lot of years of training, and to be able to do that at the Olympics and get a silver medal is just unbelievable."
Women’s 400m Free Relay
In the women’s 400m free relay, Simone Manuel, Abbey Weitzeil, Dana Vollmer and Katie Ledecky went toe-to-toe with Australia, who set the Olympic record in this afternoon’s prelims. The Americans held a slim lead over Australia until the Aussie’s Cate Campbell put the race out of reach in the final leg.
Australia broke the world record in 3:30.65, while the U.S set an American record in 3:32.89. Canada was third in 3:32.89. The former American record was set by Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin, Shannon Vreeland and Megan Romano at the 2013 FINA World Championships and stood at 3:32.31.
Although the U.S. has not won Olympic gold in the women’s 400m free relay since the 2000 Sydney Games, it has won a medal in this event at every Olympics except 1912, the first year they held it.
“We all raced as hard as we could, and I’m really proud of everyone on this team,” Vollmer said. “To go faster than any American team ever has, we have to be proud of that, and I’m really proud of all of them.”
Americans Conor Dwyer and Connor Jaeger both competed in the finals of the men’s 400m freestyle, finishing fourth in 3:44.01 and fifth in 3:44.16, respectively. Mack Horton of Australia won gold in 3:41.55, followed by Sun Yang of China in 3:41.68 and Gabriele Detti of Italy in 4:43.49.
In the semifinals of the women’s 100m butterfly, Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden set an Olympic record in 55.84. Vollmer qualified fourth for tomorrow night’s finals in 57.06. Fellow American Kelsi Worrell missed finals by three-hundredths of a second, finishing ninth in 57.54.
Cody Miller qualified second in the semifinals of the men’s 100m breaststroke in 59.05. American record-holder Kevin Cordes was fifth in 59.33.
Want to compete in a sport where you can be satisfied knowing you’ve given it everything you’ve got, no matter what the outcome? Find a USA Swimming team in your area at SwimToday.org.