IRVINE, Calif. – Chase Kalisz doesn’t mind that his Japanese rivals have his number. His phone number, that is.
Soon after Kalisz won the 200-meter individual medley Sunday at the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships, he received a message from Daiya Seto.
“It was just, ‘Good job. See you in Tokyo,’” said Kalisz, who also won the 400 IM earlier in the week at the meet, which is part of the Team USA Summer Champions Series, presented by Xfinity.
In less than two weeks, Kalisz will race Olympic and world medalists Seto and Kosuke Hagino at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Tokyo.
“Those are two of the friendliest, kindest guys you’ll meet,” Kalisz said. “They’re two of my good friends and probably my biggest rivals in swimming. We’ve been racing each other since 2011 in junior worlds, so every single time I get to race them it’s always a pleasure and an honor and I’m excited to do it on their soil.”
Kalisz won the 2017 world championships in both events, defeating Hagino in the 200 IM with Seto fifth. In the 400 IM, Seto won the bronze and Hagino was sixth.
A year earlier at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, Hagino won the 400 IM with Kalisz second and Seto third.
“We’ve interchanged positions many times,” Kalisz said, “and they’re always pushing me. You can never be off your ‘A’ game when you’re racing those two. I know they’re going to make me bring the best out of me. I’m excited to get to Tokyo and see them and race them.”
No matter what happens, Kalisz and teammate Jay Litherland plan to host Seto this fall in Athens, Georgia, at a football game.
“We’ll show him a good time,” said Kalisz.
The 24-year-old showed some very good times in the pool this week. Although Kalisz wasn’t happy with his 400 IM, he posted the fastest time in the world this year of 4 minutes, 8.25 seconds, bettering his own time. Seto is second on the world list, with Hagino third.
“I think I’ll be better in Tokyo,” Kalisz said.
Then in Sunday’s 200 IM, Kalisz exceeded his own expectations by swimming the fastest time in world this year of 1:55.73, vaulting him above Hagino, the Olympic silver medalist in the event, who went 1:56.37 in April. Chinese swimmer Wang Shun swam 1:56.67 while Seto dropped to fifth.
“The first time I really felt strong in the water (this week) was this morning,” Kalisz said.
The race followed his usual pattern of taking the lead on the third leg.
Kalisz was in sixth place after the butterfly opening leg, then moved to second at the end of the backstroke. He surged to the front in breaststroke, leading the field by nearly a body length with freestyle to go. Abrahm Devine was second in 1:57.41.
“I honestly just can’t wait to hit breaststroke,” Kalisz said. “I know that’s my best split. It’s my easiest split. Breaststroke just kind of comes naturally to me in my IM.”
He said he has struggled in the 200 breaststroke, but ever since he was young, his very wide kick in the stroke has been great for his IM.
“It’s kind of my rest split,” he said.
He needs that, since he goes full bore all season. Kalisz was the male winner of the TYR Pro Swim Series, earning 120 points with 21 wins in meets this year. Katie Ledecky was the female winner with 66 points. Both received a $10,000 bonus and the use of a BMW car for one year.
“Something that I’ve always done as a kid – even when I was an age group swimmer – is do as many events as possible, as grueling as possible, and race at a high level,” Kalisz said. “I race as hard as I can every single time I get in the pool and I think it’s very valuable at the end of the season, especially when you go through kind of a double meet like this is without much time in between (nationals and Pan Pacs).”
When he gets to Japan, Kalisz expects to be recognized. He recently hosted a Japanese TV crew who followed him around Athens.
“They’re promoting me over there,” Kalisz said. “I think it was good exposure.”
His only regret is that he can’t take his English bulldog, Floyd, with him. Floyd is being pampered at a doggie hotel.
“I get three FaceTimes a week with him,” Kalisz said.
“Everyone’s always asking me for pictures. If I could have my dog here, it’d be great, but I’m here to swim.”