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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Jessica Pegula upset in French Open third round

Jessica Pegula French Open
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Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked American man or woman, was upset in the third round of the French Open.

Elise Mertens, the 28th seed from Belgium, bounced the third seed Pegula 6-1, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Pegula, a 29-year-old at a career-high ranking, had lost in the quarterfinals of four of the previous five majors.

Down 4-3 in the second set, Pegula squandered three break points in a 14-minute game. Mertens then broke Pegula to close it out.

Pegula’s exit leaves No. 6 seed Coco Gauff, last year’s runner-up, as the last seeded hope to become the first U.S. woman to win a major title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Mertens, who lost in the third or fourth round of the last six French Opens, gets 96th-ranked Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 French Open runner-up, for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Earlier, ninth-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina became the first player to reach the fourth round. She won 6-0, 6-1 over 69th-ranked American Peyton Stearns, the 2022 NCAA champion from Texas.

Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, is the lone American woman left in the bottom half of the draw. She plays Kazakh Yulia Putintseva later Friday. Gauff, Bernarda Pera and Kayla Day remain in the top half.

Friday’s featured men’s matches: Top seed Carlos Alcaraz versus 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada, and No. 3 Novak Djokovic against No. 29 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.

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Fred Kerley flies into Florence via Grenada; Diamond League broadcast schedule

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American Fred Kerley is about to race on a fourth different continent this year, but the seeds for this season — and all of his medal-winning seasons — were planted on the sand, grass and pavement of Grenada.

Kerley, the world 100m champion, headlines Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence, Italy. Peacock streams it live from 2-4 p.m. ET. CNBC airs coverage Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

It was to be a showdown between Kerley and the Olympic 100m champion, Marcell Jacobs of Italy. But Jacobs withdrew on Tuesday due to the nerve pain that has pushed back the start of his outdoor season. Jacobs withdrew from six scheduled races with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since winning that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, who traded social media barbs with Jacobs earlier this spring, indicated a detente in a press conference Thursday.

“I’m not upset that he’s not competing, just wish him health and that he gets back to competing at 100 percent,” he said.

When speaking of himself, Kerley kept his trademark confidence. He wore a hat with a goat on it on Thursday and repeated that his focus is on two numbers: 9.69 (Tyson Gay‘s American record in the 100m) and 9.58 (Usain Bolt‘s world record). Kerley’s personal best, in two-plus years since dropping down from the 400m, is 9.76.

He resides in South Florida, a place that allows an outdoor athlete to train year-round. Kerley eschews that. He annually flies to Grenada for up to six-week stays.

“[I] work on a lot of specific stuff in Grenada to get me to the level I need to be when Budapest comes around,” Kerley said, referring to August’s world championships in the Hungarian capital, where he will bid to become the first man to repeat as world 100m champion since Bolt in 2013 and 2015.

Why Grenada? His South Carolina-based coach, Alleyne Francique, competed at three Olympics for the Spice Island, including placing fourth in the 400m at the 2004 Athens Games. That was the best Olympic finish for any Grenada athlete until Kirani James won a 400m medal of every color at the last three Games.

Francique recruited Kerley to Texas A&M out of junior college in 2015. When Kerley turned pro in 2017, he moved to the ALTIS training facility in Arizona. After a year, he went back to Francique at College Station — “It didn’t work out for me. I won’t say anything bad about the program,” he said in 2019, according to Track and Field News. Kerley has since moved to Florida, but Francique still coaches him remotely from South Carolina and with him for meet travel.

Kerley has trained in Grenada’s national stadium in St. George’s, which in 2017 was named after James. But a more unique venue for Kerley is a paved hill near the home of one of Francique’s friends.

“There’s no traffic, so it’s a good area to train,” Francique said.

There are few distractions there, aside from chickens, ducks and cattle. Francique noted that in the three seasons that Kerley trained in Grenada, he won bronze (2019 Worlds 400m), silver (Tokyo Olympic 100m) and gold (2022 Worlds 100m).

“So next year, maybe, he breaks a world record,” Francique said.

Here are the Florence entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

12:30 p.m. — Women’s Discus
12:45 — Men’s Triple Jump
1:15 — Men’s Shot Put
1:43 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:04 — Women’s 400m Hurdles
2:15 — Men’s 200m
2:20 — Men’s High Jump
2:25 — Women’s 3000m Steeplechase
2:42 — Women’s Long Jump
2:44 — Women’s 100m
2:56 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 5000m
3:28 — Women’s 400m
3:39 — Men’s 100m
3:49 — Women’s 1500m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:43 p.m. ET
Just like the Diamond League season opener in Doha, the field has the top five from the last year’s worlds, led by Americans Katie Moon and Sandi Morris, the gold and silver medalists. Moon is the world leader this year indoors and outdoors, though she no-heighted at last Saturday’s Los Angeles Grand Prix. Come August’s worlds, she will look to become the first woman to repeat as world champ in the pole vault in 16 years. Morris, who was third in Doha, eyes her first global outdoor title after four silvers between the Olympics and worlds.

Women’s Long Jump — 2:42 p.m. ET
A gathering of the world’s most accomplishes active jumpers — Olympic and world champion Malaika Mihambo of Germany, Olympic and world medalist Ese Brume of Nigeria — and the top Americans — Quanesha Burks and Tara Davis-Woodhall. They’re all chasing 7.08 meters, the world’s best leap this year recorded by Jamaican Ackelia Smith, a University of Texas sophomore.

Men’s 5000m — 3:06 p.m. ET
Field includes Olympic 5000m champion Joshua Cheptegei of Uganda, Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega of Ethiopia and world silver medalist Jacob Krop of Kenya as well as reigning U.S. 5000m and 10,000m champions Grant Fisher and Joe Klecker. Cheptegei, the world record holder, was ninth at last July’s worlds and since has strictly raced on the roads and in cross country.

Men’s 100m — 3:39 p.m. ET
The entire podium from last year’s worlds meets here: Kerley and countrymen Marvin Bracy-Williams and Trayvon Bromell. It’s a similar field to last Sunday, when Kerley prevailed by five hundredths over South African Akani Simbine. Simbine is back, as is Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, who is the world’s fastest man this year (9.84) but was third in Rabat.

Women’s 1500m — 3:49 p.m. ET
Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, a double Olympic and double world champion, ran the world’s fastest time of 2023 at the Diamond League opener in Doha on May 5. Then last weekend, four different Ethiopians ran faster. Kipyegon figures to be faster in Florence than she was in Doha given the addition of Brit Laura Muir, the Olympic silver medalist and world bronze medalist, in her outdoor season debut.

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that Francique is based in Texas. He moved from Texas to South Carolina.

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