It was expected for Georgia swimmer Chase Kalisz to punch his ticket to Rio De Janeiro.
But Kalisz won’t be the only Bulldog participating in the 400-meter individual medley at this year’s 2016 Olympics.
As Kalisz led down the home stretch of the 400 IM at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, Georgia teammate Jay Litherland started creeping up on Ryan Lochte, the former Florida swimmer who won the gold medal in this event at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Litherland chased Lochte down and touched the wall second behind Kalisz. The end result will send two Bulldogs to Brazil to compete in the 400 IM. Kalisz touched the wall first in 4 minutes 9.54 seconds with Litherland timing a 4:11.02.
Lochte jumped out to a big lead in the butterfly and held it through the backstroke. Kalisz began gaining ground and passed Lochte near the end of the second 50 meters of the breast stroke before leaving Lochte behind during the freestyle portion of the IM. Litherland, swimming in lane three, passed Lochte in the final 25 meters of the race.
“It’s because of all the training this year,” Litherland said in a statement. “I want to give a shout-out to my coaches, my teammates and my family for all their support. I really want to thank them for all of that.”
Lochte’s third-place time was 4:12.02 and another Georgia swimmer, Gunnar Bentz, was fourth in 4:13.72.
The two teammates embraced after Litherland touched in second place, with Kalisz racing in lane four.
“It honestly hasn’t sunk in yet,” Kalisz said. “I can’t even describe what I feel right now. The time wasn’t great, but it doesn’t matter because I got on the team. … I never doubted Jay for a second. He’s one of the hardest working guys out there and he did an awesome job.”
Kalisz redshirted this season to prepare for the U.S. Olympic Trials and will have one final season of college eligibility. Litherland, who just finished his sophomore season, finished third in the 400-yard individual medley at the NCAA Championships in March.
“This is a dream come true for these guys. Heck, it’s a dream come true for their coach,” Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle said. “It’s the best feeling in the world when someone achieves what he’s been trying to do since he was a kid. To go first and second and have three of the top four at a meet of this magnitude is unheard of. I’m just speechless. It’s one of the happiest days I’ve ever had.”