Chase Kalisz Making ISL Debut in American Derby For Homecoming of Sorts

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Chase Kalisz will make his International Swimming League debut less than 30 miles from the city where hours of practice alongside Michael Phelps helped propel him to the silver medal in the 400m individual medley at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The 25-year-old was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and trained with the 23-time Olympic champion Phelps under Bob Bowman at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC) before moving to the University of Georgia. Alongside his Olympic silver, Kalisz has claimed five World Championships medals, including gold in both the 200 IM and 400 IM at the 2017 edition in Budapest, Hungary.

This weekend, he is set to compete for the first time in the ISL where he will represent the LA Current, which is looking to confirm its place at the grand final in Las Vegas on December 20-21. The Cali Condors sit atop of the United States standings ahead of the LA Current, DC Trident and New York Breakers with the top two qualifying for the finale at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino where they will meet their European counterparts.

For Kalisz, not only will this weekend’s competition at College Park, Maryland, mean returning close to home but it will also pit him against his roommate, teammate and World Champs silver medalist Jay Litherland.

He said: “I grew up about an hour and 15 away.

“It’s good to be back. I grew up swimming under Bob and with Michael so this isn’t too far. I’ve never really swum in this pool – once or twice. I swam meets more local to where I was from in Baltimore.

“I think it’s great (to be here). This is one of the best pools we have in this country and it never gets used.”

Injury hampered Kalisz at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, where he finished 10th as Litherland took silver in the long medley.

Kalisz said: “He lives with me and trains with me. We are quite close. We pretty much do everything together. He lives upstairs and takes care of my dogs sometimes.

“Once we are in the pool, we focus, we work hard, we race each other, we go head to head all the time but once we are out we don’t really talk about swimming. We don’t ever kind of go ‘I’m going to kick your ass here’ or anything like that.

“I just need racing experience. It’s just about me getting in and giving my all and figuring out my race plan.”

Second placed Jay Litherland of the United States of America (USA) (L) and winner Daiya Seto of Japan react after competing in the men's 400m Individual Medley (IM) Final during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 28 July 2019.

Photo Courtesy: PATRICK B. KRAEMER

Litherland added: “It will be fun. He missed the first two meets so I don’t really know what he is going to put up for the short-course meters.

“We have always been on the same team when we have been training but since we are on separate teams we are definitely more competitive but it’s fun. I love doing this. He is a fierce competitor. He knows what he is doing in his race and I think I am the same way. We both have a certain way we swim the 400IM.”

Caeleb Dressel was MVP at the Naples edition of the ISL and his Cali Condors team is in pole position to make it through.

He said: “We definitely don’t want to make any pre-judgments but the goal is to make it to Vegas. It’s been the goal from the start. Of course you want to make the championship and we are in a good spot. We set ourselves up with the first two meets to do that with the scoring system but we are looking good as of right now. But every meet we go to we want to try and win.”

Natalie Coughlin returned to competition for the first time since the 2016 Olympic Trials at the Indianapolis leg.

Now 37 and a 12-times Olympic medalist, Coughlin sees how the swimmers appreciate being the focal point.

“I think the athletes feel very respected, they feel listened to, they buy into this because it has been proven that someone is going to listen to them,” Coughlin said. “They feel validated. I think that is very refreshing.”

Coughlin, who represents the DC Trident, became a mother a little more than a year ago when she and husband Ethan Hall welcomed daughter Zennie Mae.

“Having a kid is such a blessing: she is one of the easiest babies,” said Coughlin. “She is going to be here this weekend. She has her DC Trident onesie which she is going to wear, it’s going to be so cute. Hopefully it’s not too loud.”