Q&A with Jay Litherland
Tell us about racing the 400m individual medley at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, where you qualified for your first Olympic team.
After that prelim swim I kind of got the jitters out and I knew I would be ready for the finals. Going into finals, I knew I had to stay close to Chase [Kalisz] and be able to see Ryan [Lochte] at least until the 300m mark. And then I saw him on the last lap, once I saw him on the last 25 meters or so, I kind of made my move there and yea, I guess I out touched him. I was really honored to be able to race all those great athletes in the heat and it was exciting. And I’m going to Rio now!
Do you think it’s a challenge to do the 400m IM twice in one day?
I think there’s a balance to it. The 200-meter races and down, they all have to go through semis. I had to do that with the 200m IM and that to me was pretty tough just because you gotta swim three times. The 400m IM, getting it done twice isn’t too bad. If there were semis for that, it would be horrible.
Is there a certain vibe that you tried to give off in the ready room? What was that like for you at Trials?
The ready room was probably the most nerve-wracking moment I’ve ever experienced. Just because it was the first night and the Opening Ceremony was going on before finals. There was a countdown going. I could hear the whole crowd. It was pretty stressful. Everyone had their headphones in
Is there a specific playlist that you were listening to?
No, I didn’t have any music on. I was just bopping around.
Tell me about after the race. There was a really special moment with your brothers [editor’s note: his triplet siblings Mick and Kevin also competed at Trials].
It was awesome. Once I touched the wall, my brothers came down on deck and I gave them a big hug. It was a really special moment. They’re the biggest supporters ever. We’ve been through a lot together so sharing that moment meant a lot to me.
Will they be there in Rio?
No, unfortunately. They have classes because school starts pretty early [at the University of Georgia] and tickets are pretty hard to get now. Just my parents are going.
So you grew up all over the world and you speak Japanese. Did you have a favorite place?
Not really. I loved everywhere I went. I think I like to visit Japan every other summer or so and visit the family and stuff so I don’t know. I don’t really have a favorite.
Is there a particular routine that you go through while you’re unwinding after a competition?
Learn to relax and take a step out of the meet and make sure to flush out the meet. Not really think about it too much. I think after Trials I definitely wanted to go out with my family and try to forget about the meet or so. Just get back into training.
Do you have a memory of the first time you saw the Olympics on TV?
I think it was 2004, when I first saw it and I saw the big names like Michael Phelps, [Australia’s] Ian Thorpe and Ryan Lochte. It was amazing seeing them and I always had the dream of going to the Olympics at a very young age. And to know that I’m gonna experience that is an amazing feeling.
Do you have any bad habits that you’re willing to admit to?
I procrastinate a lot. I feel like another one is that it’s kind of hard for me to say no to a lot of things. I don’t know if that’s habit or not.
Are there parts of training that you absolutely dread?
I’m pretty bad on land. Anything to do with dry land I’m pretty bad at. That’s what I don’t really like.
Is there a particular app you have to check first thing in the morning?
Let’s see. Probably Snapchat. Gotta look at my snaps when I wake up.
Do you have a favorite filter?
Probably the face swap. I like to switch and face swap with my brothers to see how alike we look!
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