UGA swimmers punch ticket to Rio
University of Georgia swimmers Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim team by beating out superstar Ryan Lochte, Sunday at the Olympic team qualifying at the Century Link Center.
(WXIA) University of Georgia swimmers Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim team by beating out superstar Ryan Lochte, Sunday at the Olympic team qualifying at the Century Link Center.
The two beat out Lochte, an 11-time Olympic medalist, in the 400-meter individual medley (IM) finishing in the top two.
Kalisz finished first with a time of 4:09.54. Litherland finished second at 4:11.02. Lochte's time was 4:12.02.
"Honestly, it hasn't sunk in it. I can't believe anything that just happened," Kalisz said. "I feel like this is a dream."
"This is the one thing I've wanted to do my entire life. It's been my dream. It's been the only thing I've ever wanted this bad."
When Kalisz got out of the pool, training partner and 18-time gold medal winner Michael Phelps immediately congratulated him.
“Chase is like a brother to me,” Phelps said in a release from UGA. “He deserves it. He trained so hard for it. I was holding back tears giving him a hug after the race. I’m just so proud of him.”
Litherland's triplet brothers, Kevin and Jay Litherland, are also attempting to qualify for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. However, they are trying to represent New Zealand. SEE STORY: 3 brother, 3 nationalities, 1 race to Rio
"I still can't believe it. I'm speechless right now," Litherland said trying to catch his breath.
"My brothers, they're the biggest supporters. I wouldn't be here at all without them. They're always training with me. They always push me. I just love them."
Kalisz and Litherland are making their first Olympic appearances. But, they are experienced in international competition.
Kalisz won silver in the 400-meter IM at the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona. At UGA, he won the 400-meter IM at both the 2013 and 2014 NCAA Championships.
Litherland won a gold medal at the World University Games and a bronze medal at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships.
UGA's Javier Acevedo, Brittany MacLean and Chantal Van Landeghem and Finland’s Matias Koski will represent Canada in the summer games.
See all of Georgia's local athletes on the Road to Rio: Click here.