After a drought on day one, the first in close to 50 years, the United States officially has its first medals of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Day Two saw swimmers Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland paddling away with the gold and silver medals, respectively, in the 400m individual medley.
According to PEOPLE, the pair are former University of Georgia classmates and competed in the 2016 Olympics. They celebrated their wins after the race while other American athletes cheered from the stands. This helped maintain the atmosphere as spectators are barred due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland celebrate their 1-2 finish in the men's 400m IM. pic.twitter.com/kBiIvxMGxI— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) July 25, 2021
The Sunday morning wins in Tokyo followed a strong showing in the heats on Saturday ahead of the final, finishing third and seventh. Kalisz walked away with the silver medal for the same event in 2016 at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"We train every single day together; we train super hard," Litherland told outlets earlier in the year after he and Kalisz qualified for Team USA, according to PEOPLE. "Making it, we fought for getting on that team for so long — and just being able to do that again, I'm so fortunate and so grateful."
Due to the COVID-19 precautions, the swimmer's friends, family and supporters couldn't be on hand to support and celebrate with them. According to PEOPLE, Kalisz's family in Maryland had a watch party and were just happy to see the swimmer be an Olympian.
"We just want to tell him how proud we are. We understand the hard work — he has such a strong commitment of purpose, and he's dedicated to this sport," Kasliz's father, Mike, told WBAL in Baltimore (Via PEOPLE).
Litherland also had a little special sauce added to his win, being able to take a medal victory in his birth nation. He holds dual citizenship between the U.S. and Japan. He told his alma mater that being able to compete in the Tokyo games would "be sweet" and he was excited.
With the first medals now captured by the United States, their total is expected to rise as more competitions heat up. Gymnastics and swimming should offer plenty of opportunities for Team USA to rack up some victories.