Swimmer Q&A: Catching up with Chase Kalisz

2019 Mar | By

By Rachel Lutz

Training alongside Michael Phelps in Baltimore growing up, Chase Kalisz learned to be a versatile swimmer. He was a miler through high school, but is happier now being competitive in the 400s and 200s. He won double gold medals in the 200m and 400m IMs at both the 2017 World Championships and 2018 Pan Pac Championships and is one of the most dominant swimmers in the world in his events.

With the 2020 Tokyo Games approaching, check out the second in our monthly series of Swimmer Q&As, as swim writer Rachel Lutz chats with the Rio Olympian.

Q: How is it that you became an IMer?
CK: It was more so that it was my best event. I come from a training program in North Baltimore with Bob [Bowman] and Michael [Phelps], where pretty much every single set was an IM-based training. I eventually just got good enough at that where it just made so much sense to me and that’s how it became my best event.

Q: Is there a weakness as part of the IM or maybe you don’t see yourself that way?
CK: I used to. I would say my backstroke was probably my biggest weakness. I was at a point where I was probably 16, 17 where I was going faster breaststroke splits than my backstroke, which isn’t good, obviously. To get to the point where I am now and to be competitive on the international level, you can’t really have a weakness. That has been my main focus since those days, was to make sure everything was pretty equal.

Q:  I can imagine that sharing coaching duties would be tough for any other coach except with those guys?
CK: Yeah. I understand how it can be hard, but they’re just two really good friends and they both want the best for me. When I was looking at college and I was training with Bob, he wanted me to go to Georgia and luckily that’s exactly where I wanted to go. Everything worked out perfectly.

Q; What did you learn from Pan Pacs in Tokyo this past summer that you’ll take with you to the Olympics in 2020?
CK: I think it was good being in Tokyo and seeing the surroundings. As far as the meet went, it wasn’t really the greatest meet for me or really anyone on the U.S. team. There were a lot of logistical problems and we arrived three days early. No one was adjusted. I think the stuff like that, they’re not perfect situations. They’re actually terrible situations to be in. if you can learn from them and be able to compete at your highest level regardless of the situations, I think you can get a positive outcome from it.

Q: I saw you were in the commentary booth with Rowdy Gaines over the summer and I wanted to know what that was like. 
CK: It’s always good. I’ve got a pretty good relationship with Rowdy. Rowdy was paralyzed, I don’t know if you know. He had Guillain-Barre syndrome after his swimming career was done. Basically, it’s a very rare sickness that takes the coating of your nerves away. Your whole body’s left paralyzed. I had that when I was eight-years-old. I was in the hospital in the ICU on a ventilator, feeding tube, life support for about eight months. My rehabilitation process started four months after that. Rowdy was one of the people that called me and talked to me through the whole process. I’ve gotten to know Rowdy for a long time now, so it was just like being in the booth with a friend.

Q: Is that something that affects you now?
CK: It’s hard to say. I can’t really put a gauge on how fast I would be or what type of swimmer I would be if that didn’t happen to me. It probably took two years out of my training. I was young, so that’s a positive. But it was a very rare sickness that I had a chance of dying from. Definitely affected my life. I don’t really like to think in terms of “what if it didn’t happen to me.”

Q: Your social media accounts paint you as a bit of a barbeque enthusiast. What’s the best barbeque you’ve ever had?
CK: It depends on what type of barbeque. If I’m going brisket, I would definitely pick one of the Texas barbeque places. Preferably probably Franklin’s or Stubb’s or Salt Lick. One of those in Texas. I think Texas does brisket… it’s not even close…. Texas does brisket better than anyone else. Pork, I think that’s more of kind of like southeast kind of thing. Georgia’s got some decent pork. I wouldn’t really put Georgia barbeque too high up on the list. I think it depends on where you’re at, that would dictate what type of barbeque I would get.

Q: How’s your dog?
CK: He’s with me right now! He’s eating.

Q: Who eats more?
CK: I definitely eats more. He eats two cups a day. He needs to stay healthy. He’s a bulldog. They can get pretty unhealthy. He’s a year old and he’s about 55 pounds already. I’ve seen 80-pound bulldogs but apparently, he’s slightly overweight. Nothing to be worried about, but he can’t really eat too many snacks or treats.

Q: Sounds like you keep him in line.
CK: I try to. He doesn’t really exercise that much. He’s pretty lazy. He likes to lay on the couch all day. He needs to watch his weight somehow.

Q: I was wondering, how did he get his name Floyd?
CK: I wanted to make sure that I got the bulldog from the healthiest possible outlet. So, I went to a breeder that has been doing it for 35 years. Very good genetics and stuff like that.

I drove to Chattanooga with a few of my Georgia friends that aren’t swimmers and we had a few names on hand that we came up with. I wanted to get a bulldog for probably about a month and then I was telling everyone. I was like, I’m gonna get a bulldog soon!

I started looking and the second day of looking I found the perfect match with everything. First day, I was finding nothing. Second day, I literally found the perfect match. I said whatever, I’m going to do it, so I did it.

I didn’t really have much time to prepare, but we had names and we said on the four-hour drive back that whatever name we would test out the names and whatever name stuck was gonna be his name. Floyd was ultimately the winner.

Q: Sounds like a really fun road trip.
CK: It was. It was a good time. It was a whole day, but it was good. It was fun. It’s always good to bring back a bulldog puppy.

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