Team USA Wins First Medals in Tokyo with Men's Swimming Medley

Chase Kalisz won gold and Jay Litherland took silver in the men's 400m individual medley on Sunday morning

Team USA has made it to the podium.

After an usually medal-less first full day of competition at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, America earned its first medals early on day two as swimmer Chase Kalisz won gold and Jay Litherland took silver in the men's 400m individual medley on Sunday morning.

The two — former classmates at the University of Georgia and Olympians in 2016 — rejoiced in the water after their win, which saw Kalisz dominate the second half of the medley and Litherland, with his "patented rundown," shoot forward for a strong close.

Kalisz's final time was 4:09.42; Litherland's was 4:10.28. (Australia's Brendon Smith earned bronze with a time of 4:10.38.)

A throng of American athletes cheered from the stands, which sat mostly empty because spectators were barred during the pandemic.

"We train every single day together; we train super hard," Litherland said earlier this year after he and Kalisz qualified for Team USA. "Making it, we fought for getting on that team for so long — and just being able to do that again, I'm so fortunate and so grateful."

Both were strong contenders heading into the medley final on Sunday after coming in third and seventh during the heat on Saturday, respectively.

Kalisz won a silver in the same event at the 2016 Games, in Rio de Janeiro.

"It is my lifelong dream. It is what everyone dreams of in the sport. I do feel like I let the U.S. down in 2016, even though I swam faster here," he told reporters after racing on Sunday. "The U.S. has a proud legacy in the 400m individual medley. This was my redemption story."

Jay Litherland and Chase Kalisz
Team USA swimmers Jay Litherland (left) and Chase Kalisz celebrate after their 400m individual relay event in the Tokyo Summer Olympics on Sunday. Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Chase Kalisz
Photo by Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

COVID-19 protocols meant their friends and family had not traveled with him to watch — but they were following along at home. In Maryland, Kalisz's family organized a watch party.

"We just want to tell him how proud we are. We understand the hard work — he has such a strong commitment of purpose, and he's dedicated to this sport," his father, Mike, told local TV station WBAL on Saturday.

Chase's dad said then that while they were hopeful he'd repeat on the podium, "We're just here to celebrate the fact that he is an Olympian."

Litherland, a triple citizen whose family is Japanese and who was born in Osaka, previously told the University of Georgia that competing in Tokyo was "gonna be sweet."

The U.S.' list of medals is expected to lengthen quickly, with gymnastics and swimming — where the team is dominant — now underway in earnest.

Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Jay Litherland, Chase Kalisz, Brendon Smith
Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

Soon after the men's 400m individual medley, American Kieran Smith won a bronze in the men's 400m freestyle.

Emma Weyant and Hali Flickinger then won silver and bronze in the women's 400m individual medley and the women won bronze in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Also on Sunday morning, skateboarding made its Olympic debut with the American men among the top contenders in street ahead of the medal in the afternoon.

To learn more about Team USA, visit Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.

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