Kalisz — with Bay State ties — claims gold – Lowell Sun
A swimmer with both Montachusett and Merrimack Valley blood running through his veins captured the first American gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics Saturday night.
Chase Kalisz, of Bel Air, Maryland, a protégé of record-setting Olympian Michael Phelps, finished first in the 400 Individual Medley out of lane three. His University of Georgia teammate, Jay Litherland, took home silver.
Kalisz’s gold medal performance was an improvement in this event from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where he touched the wall with silver.
Kalisz’s mother is the former Cathy Tousignant, a Leominster native and St. Bernard’s High School graduate. His dad is former Lowell High basketball standout Mike Kalisz.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, neither parent could go to Japan.
In 2016, her niece — Fitchburg High Hall of Fame cross country runner and Lunenburg High cross country and track coach Karma Tousignant — had started a GoFundMe page to send her aunt to Brazil to see Kalisz swim.
Kalisz was third after the first length of the pool in the butterfly, but made up ground and touched the wall second after the second run. In the backstroke, Kalisz slowly took command and had a slight lead halfway through the third length.
He touched the wall first in the turn, but was second after the second backstroke length.
But in the breaststroke, Kalisz turned it on. In the last 25 meters of the first run, Kalisz started to out-stroke the competition with his length underwater, bobbing up once before going under and striding forward.
Going into the freestyle, Kalisz held a 2.47 second lead.
Litherland, who was fifth following the backstroke, picked things up in the second freestyle leg and beat out everyone else — except Kalisz — to the wall.