Chase Kalisz competes in the men's 400-meter medley preliminary round at the Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships on July 30, 2017 in Budapest, Hungary.
BUDAPEST, Hungary – For Chase Kalisz, the 200-meter individual medley at the FINA World Championships was the appetizer and the 400 IM was the main course.
After Kalisz got a taste of what he could do by winning the shorter race three nights ago, he was hungrier than ever to finally win the race that is, well, his bread and butter.
Kalisz set a World Championships record Sunday night to win his second gold medal with a time of 4 minutes 5.90 seconds, the fourth-best performance of all time. Only Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have gone faster.
“Those guys are my idols,” Kalisz said. “Just to be behind them is cool for me to think about.”
He said he grew up watching them dominate and didn’t think anyone would ever be on the same level with them, but was glad “to be able to continue our proud tradition of IM.”
“To be able to carry on their legacy and swim at my best right now,” he added, “it’s awesome. I’m on top of the world right now.”
After beating the field by nearly 2 ½ seconds, Kalisz pumped his fist and slapped his chest as some of the swimmers were still finishing the race.
“I think that’s a huge step for me,” said Kalisz. “That’s what I came for -- the 400 IM. I couldn’t be happier to finish the meet like that.”
David Verraszto of Hungary was second at 4:08.38, while two-time world champion Daiya Seto of Japan was third in 4:09.14.
Kalisz, whose previous best was 4:06.75, won his first gold in the 400 IM in three world tries. He earned the silver in 2013 and the bronze in 2015. The last Team USA swimmer to win the event was Lochte in 2011.
During the opening leg, the butterfly, Seto took the lead, but Kalisz caught up to turn first in 55.93, with Seto at 56.07.
The backstroke is Kalisz’s worst stroke, but he maintained the lead by .08. And then came breaststroke, his strongest stroke. He forged more than a 2-second lead over the field, bringing it home in freestyle.
At the Olympic Games Rio 2016, Kalisz was crushed to lose to Kosuke Hagino of Japan, who was sixth in the 400 IM after winning the silver in the 200 IM.
“Last summer was a disappointment for me where I wasn’t able to continue the 400 IM tradition,” Kalisz said. “That was something that bothered me for a few months.”
He went back into training with renewed commitment.
“I think he’s gotten stronger,” said his coach, Jack Bauerle, of the University of Georgia. “He’s a little fitter. He’s working just smarter and he does a lot of little things right.”
Bauerle said that Kalisz, who finished his senior year at Georgia, has the mind of a coach.
“His biggest advantage is he really loves swimming,” Bauerle said. “He enjoys it. He’ll get out of a workout and he’s very cognizant of what other people have done in the workout. He’ll say, ‘I think she can go faster if she did that or this.’”
But Kalisz never imagined he’d be a double gold medalist at worlds. In the 200 IM, he said, he thought he’d “be battling for maybe a third place at best.”
“The 200 is more of a shock for me,” Kalisz said. “I came here with the 400 as my focus.
“There’s a lot of things that I need to work on, certainly, but it’s a good step forward to where I want to be three years down the road.”
That would be the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where he hopes to put Team USA back on top of the podium in the 400 IM.
“I’m at a good point now,” Kalisz said, “and I’m more focused and hungry than ever.”