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Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland 'teammates for life' after rare medal win at Tokyo Olympics

Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland placed first and second in their race bringing home the gold and silver.

ATHENS, Ga. — The opening swimming competition was an incredible night for Team USA, and for the competitors from the University of Georgia -- who brought home a rare win. The Bulldogs took home five medals. Chase Kalisz {kay-lish} and Jay Litherland placed first and second in their race bringing home the gold and silver.

Litherland surged in the freestyle leg, coming back from sixth place with a 27.96 split in the final 50 meters.

“What we have is really special, nothing else like it in the world,” a TV commentator announced.

The world saw that in spectacular fashion – the first US Olympic swimming medals of the Games – gold and silver from not one, but two Georgia bulldogs. What a moment for the long-time teammates and friends.

Shortly after the race, UGA Head Swim Coach Jack Bauerle told 11Alive,  “When you have two on one team in the same event and they get a gold and silver it’s rare.” He added, “They’ve been teammates forever but they’ll be teammates for life now.”

Kalisz and Litherland have been through a lot together.

“We really had the rug pulled out from under us,” Kalisz said. “Us as a group here at Georgia really made the best out of a bad situation ... we were training in back yard pools and lifting in my garage for an entire year.”

In the hours before Kalisz and Litherland jumped on a golf cart to ride through campus, he was packing up that garage gym. It was the day before the team of UGA Olympians would leave for the first leg of their journey to Tokyo.

They had a full day of Olympic duties outside the pool - official pictures and interviews. However, it didn't catch this pair by surprise – it’s their second Summer Games – one that came with an additional year-long wait. 

Credit: AP
Chase Kalisz, of the United States, celebrates after winning the final of the men's 400-meter individual medley at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

“It’s more meaning for me to bounce back from such a crazy year,” Litherland said.

And for Kalisz, another shot at gold, after what he felt was a disappointing silver in Rio.

“I’m in a perfect position, a position that I thrive, I’m the hunter again,” Kalisz stated.

“We’ve had all our ups and downs,” Litherland said. “ But we’ve had them together.”

So much on the line after so many challenges – yet together they now find themselves on top of the world.