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Chase Kalisz, among Floyd, swim stardom, Waffle House, at home in Athens

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While Chase Kalisz endured the decathlon of swimming last week, his English Bulldog, Floyd, enjoyed a life of luxury.

“He’s in one of our private suites,” said Stephen Garza, assistant kennel manager at Pawtropolis in Athens, Ga. “He gets play time with staff members.”

Kalisz is arguably the world’s best swimmer. He swept the individual medleys at the 2017 World Championships, then dominated the domestic Tyr Pro Swim Series in the spring before comfortably taking the 200m and 400m IMs at the U.S. Championships in Irvine, Calif., last week.

For years, the Kalisz story began with his association with Michael Phelps. Kalisz, a Bel Air, Md., native, began training at Phelps’ North Baltimore Aquatic Club in 2000 and, as workout partners leading up to Rio, described Phelps as an older brother.

When Kalisz was beaten in his Olympic debut in Rio — silver to Japan’s Kosuke Hagino in the 400m individual medley — it was a message from the never-forget-a-loss Phelps that motivated Kalisz to work harder en route to his world championships breakout.

That’s not all that fuels Kalisz. He moved back to his college town since spending the Rio Olympic year training with Phelps in Arizona.

Kalisz and Floyd are well known around campus. Perhaps nowhere is Kalisz more recognized than at the Waffle House across the street from his apartment. Restaurant manager Kathleen “Bobbi” Peek was asked how well the staff knows the swimmer.

“The All-Star,” she said, referring not to Kalisz’s talent but his regular order. “Triple scrambled [eggs], peanut butter waffle, hash browns smothered [with onions], covered [with cheese], capped [with mushrooms] and bacon.”

Kalisz estimated he eats at Waffle House “four times a week, at least.”

In February, Kalisz drove to Tennessee to pick up Floyd, a 10-week-old puppy of a Westminster Dog Show participant. Why an English Bulldog?

“I remember Herman when I was younger,” Kalisz said of Phelps’ longtime pet. “Mike would bring him to swim meets around Baltimore, and I was like, that’s the coolest dog in the world.”

Bulldogs are pretty beloved in Athens, too.

“[Floyd] is more popular than me,” Kalisz said (Floyd is up to 3,600 Instagram followers). “We go on campus, and I take him on walks. I literally have people pointing him out, ‘That’s Floyd the Bulldog.'”

It pained Kalisz to part with Floyd last month. Kalisz flew to California for the national championships, a training camp and then the Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo (Aug. 9-12). Floyd trotted to Athens’ Pawtropolis, “The city that’s gone to the dogs … and cats, too.”

“He’s got a toddler bed. He’s got an area where he can go in and out, play time every single day,” Kalisz said. “They’re taking good care of him. I get three FaceTimes a week with him.”

Kalisz passed free time at nationals by going through photos of Floyd, easing the pain of separation. Floyd watched TV, a lot of it.

“Lady and the Tramp, Bolt, Cats & Dogs, Oliver & Company, Benji,” Garza said, reeling off Pawtropolis’ private suite listings.

Kalisz insisted life hasn’t changed much since Rio, even with moving back to Athens and becoming world champion.

“I promise you no one still knows who I am,” he said.

That’s quickly changing in Japan. Kalisz’s top rivals are Hagino and Daiya Seto, who are shaping up to be two of the 2020 Olympic host nation’s biggest stars across all sports.

Kosuke Kitajima, the greatest Japanese swimmer in history who swept the breaststrokes in 2004 and 2008, led a Japanese film crew that covered swimming nationals and recently spent a day with Kalisz in Athens.

“They’re promoting me over there,” Kalisz said. “It’s good exposure.”

Kitajima promised to recommend a sushi place for Kalisz in Tokyo this month. Seto’s coming to Athens this fall to get the UGA experience with Kalisz and fellow U.S. Olympic 400m IMer Jay Litherland, including a Bulldogs football game.

First, they must race. Kalisz, Hagino and Seto are all entered in the 200m and 400m IMs at Pan Pacs in Tokyo, making them the most anticipated men’s events of the meet.

Kalisz posted the fastest times in the world this year in both events at nationals. He supplanted Hagino’s top time in the 200m IM by .64 of a second. He bettered his own world-leading mark in the 400m IM, moving .73 ahead of second-ranked Seto.

Then Kalisz left Irvine with one more message for the Japanese.

“I’ll be better in Tokyo,” he said.

MORE: Five thoughts off swimming nationals

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Welcome to Athens @floydthebulldawg 🐶

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He’s sweet sometimes

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World short-track speedskating championships will be moved, postponed or canceled

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The International Skating Union announced Tuesday that the world short-track speedskating championships will not proceed as scheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Seoul’s Mokdong Ice Rink, where the competition was set to be held March 13-15, held the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships earlier this month but closed on Monday.

The ISU left open the possibility that the championships will be postponed or relocated, but the window to do so may close rapidly.

“Taking into account the uncertain world-wide development of the coronavirus, the limited and uncertain available time slots during the coming weeks and the logistical challenges of potential organizers and participating teams, a postponement and/or relocation of the Championships would be difficult to achieve,” the ISU said. “Nevertheless, a postponement and/or relocation of this Championships might be considered if the circumstances would allow so in due time.”

South Korea is one of short-track speedskating’s traditional powers. Last year, the country dominated the world championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, winning both relays and taking gold in all of the men’s individual races. South Korea also led the medal count on home ice in the 2018 Olympics.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced the cancellation of many events in China, where the illness was first found. The world indoor track and field championships were pushed back a whole year.

With the virus spreading to other regions, other countries’ sports schedules are being affected. Several soccer games are proceeding in empty stadiums in Italy and Iran.

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Daniel Romanchuk’s ascent to marathon stardom accelerated at University of Illinois

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The rise of Daniel Romanchuk has been one of the major stories of this Paralympic cycle. The wheelchair racer was eliminated in the first round of all five of his races in Rio.

But now, he’s the world’s best marathoner with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, a world-record holder on the track and already qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Romanchuk, born with spina bifida, was profiled by NBC Sports Chicago as part of a series of NBC Sports Regional Networks pieces published this week — marking 150 days until the Tokyo Olympics and six months until the Tokyo Paralympics.

NBC RSN Olympic and Paralympic Profiles
NBC Sports Bay Area

Abbey Weitzeil (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Boston
Margaret Bertasi (Rowing) — LINK
Abbey D’Agostino Cooper (Track and Field) — LINK

NBC Sports Chicago
Ryan Murphy (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Northwest
Galen Rupp (Marathon) — LINK
Mariel Zagunis (Fencing) — LINK

NBC Sports Philadelphia
Vashti Cunningham (Track and Field) — LINK
Julie Ertz (Soccer) — LINK

NBC Sports Washington
Katie Ledecky (Swimming) — LINK
Kyle Snyder (Wrestling) — LINK

Romanchuk, 21, swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon titles in 2019. He attributes that success to his native Baltimore and his training residence of the University of Illinois.

At age 2, he was enrolled in Baltimore’s Bennett Blazers, an adaptive sports program for children with physical disabilities. Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist who dominated women’s wheelchair marathons, planted her athletic roots there.

“Their motto is to teach kids they can before they’re told they can’t,” Romanchuk said.

Things really blossomed for Romanchuk after he moved from Baltimore to the University of Illinois. Illinois was designated a U.S. Paralympic training site in 2014 and has produced McFadden, Jean Driscoll and other U.S. Paralympic stars.

“Without this program, I certainly would not be where I am,” Romanchuk said. “It’s a very unique combination of coaching and teammates.”

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MORE: Ten Paralympic hopefuls to watch for 2020 Tokyo Games