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Meet the new generation of Team USA swimmers, who took home 6 medals on opening night

The U.S. took home half the 12 available medals in an epic pool party in Tokyo on Sunday.
/ Source: TODAY

Team USA is making history in the pool — and on the podium — on day two of the Tokyo Olympics.

USA Swimming got a strong start in Tokyo with swimmer Chase Kalisz winning the first American medal of the Games, taking home the gold on in the men's 400-meter individual medley. Teammate Jay Litherland earned second place in the event.

The 1-2 finish also means a special trip to the tattoo parlor for the former University of Georgia teammates.

"It means so much," Litherland said on TODAY Monday. "Two years ago, we made a bet to get the Olympic tattoo ring. So I didn't get it in (2016), but he was saying if we go 1-2 in Tokyo, I have to get it, so I'm going."

It turns out Kalisz and Litherland were just setting the tone. For the first time in history, Team USA walked away with six of 12 medals on the opening night of swimming.

In his Olympic debut, Kieran Smith took bronze in the men's 400-meter freestyle, and Emma Weyant and Hali Flickinger took silver and bronze in the women’s 400-meter individual medley, marking the first U.S. women to medal in Tokyo.

"This whole experience has been so surreal," Weyant said on TODAY. "This is the kind of stuff you dream of as a little kid in the sport and to actually have it become a reality now is kind of insane to me. Being there without a crowd and looking up and seeing your teammates in the stands meant the world. I think that energy in watching Jay and Chase before us really got Hali and I going for the race."

Kieran Smith of Team USA poses with the bronze medal for the Men's 400m Freestyle Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 25, 2021.Al Bello / Getty Images

The women's 4×100 free relay team added to the American sweep with a bronze medal.

With no fans permitted in the stands at this year's events, Team USA celebrated with emotional embraces and beaming smiles.

Kalisz celebrates winning the gold medal with silver medalist Litherland in the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final.David Ramos / Getty Images

The team camaraderie was on full display in a poignant moment after the U.S. won gold in the men's 4x100 freestyle relay by edging Italy. The team was Caeleb Dressel, Bowen Becker, Blake Pieroni, and Zach Apple.

Dressel tossed his gold medal into the stands to teammate Brooks Curry, who swam in the preliminary heats to help the team qualify for the final and allow Dressel to rest up for the swim that brought home the gold.

"That was an awesome experience," Curry said on TODAY. "They got their medal during the podium, so I get mine tomorrow some time, and he wanted me to experience that with them at the same time, and so he tossed it up so I could hold it and wear it."

"He'll keep it until he gets his," Dressel told Craig Melvin on TODAY.

A swimmer who already has a pile of medals, Katie Ledecky, 24, added another one when she took silver in an anticipated showdown with Australia's Ariarne Titmus, 20, in the 400-meter freestyle. Titmus edged the defending champion by swimming the second-fastest time in history.

"I fought and had my second-best swim, so I can't be too disappointed with that," Ledecky told Craig. "I just wanted to put together the best effort that I could. Little short of gold, but it was a fabulous race by Ariarne, so I can't be too disappointed."

Ledecky still has four more events to go for the gold, including the first women's 1,500-meter freestyle race in Olympic history. Dressel, a budding star, hopes to follow up his gold in the relay with plenty more as he still has three individual events and two more relays to swim.

In a nod to NBC, the swim finals were held in the morning on Tokyo time rather than their usual evening slot, so the finals could be viewed during prime time in the U.S.