Jay Litherland is an American Olympic swimmer. He is supported by his parents, Andrew Litherland and Chizuko Litherland, and triplet brothers, Kevin and Mick Litherland, who are both also swimmers. He was born in Ozaka, Japan. His mother is Japanese and his father is from New Zealand.
The 25-year-old Litherland is competing in the finals of the men’s 400-meter individual medley along with fellow American swimmer Chase Kalisz. Litherland has triple American, Japanese and New Zealand citizenship. Litherland is competing in his second Olympics. He was part of the U.S. relay team during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He told GeorgiaDogs.com about swimming in the country where he was born, “It’s gonna be sweet.”
Litherland added, “I think last year was definitely a blessing for me just because I think I really needed to reset everything. I’m sure like a lot of people I learned to just be more patient with myself and not be so caught up with trying to do everything right, trying to train and be at my best every single day. I think it was a big reset button and I came out, definitely, a better person. I think it’s going to be the same way I approach everything, just being grateful for being in this situation, for being able to experience it again. I think the first time around was an experience I’ll never forget, and the second time around will probably be even more meaningful just because the battle that came with it. I’m super grateful to be in this spot right now.”
Here’s what you need to know about Jay Litherland’s family:
1. Litherland Was Born in Japan & Lived There Until He Was 3
Jay Litherland was born August 24, 1995, in Osaka, Japan, according to his biography on the Team USA swimming website. His mother, Chizuko Nakamura Litherland, is a native of Japan, and his father, Andrew Litherland, is from Auckland, New Zealand. According to his father’s LinkedIn profile, Andy Litherland was working as a chef in Osaka when Litherland and his brothers were born. The Litherland family lived in Japan until he was 3, according to his Team USA bio.
Litherland has often returned to Japan to visit his family that lives there. Litherland, whose family now lives in Georgia, told 11 Alive News, “We speak Japanese at home, and she cooks a lot. There were lots of Japanese meals, so keeping that culture in the U.S is something my mom always wanted.”
GeorgiaDogs.com wrote, “Litherland was beaming at the thought of returning to Japan for the first time in three years, particularly when the subject of food came up. But these aren’t an ordinary Olympic Games, and because of the pandemic the athletes won’t be able to explore much beyond their venues and the Olympic village. Being in Tokyo and not being able to experience all of the things he loves about the city — the ramen and the gyoza, which are Japanese dumplings, in particular — is ‘definitely going to be kind of hard,’ he said. But once the pandemic is behind all of us, he can return to his native country any time. The Olympics, though, that’s an opportunity to be savored no matter what.”
2. Litherland Swam With His Brothers at the University of Georgia
Litherland’s triplet brothers, Mick Litherland and Kevin Litherland, both swam collegiately alongside Jay Litherland at the University of Georgia. The three brothers finished their NCAA career with the Georgia Bulldogs in 2017.
Andrew Litherland told SavannahNow about his sons, “They’re best friends. They’re so lucky to have each other. To get up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, get out of bed, let’s go.’ Or say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get to bed early, we’ve practice in the morning.'”
The brothers all graduated from Chattahoochee High School in Johns Creek, Georgia, according to the Alpharetta-Roswell Herald. Georgia Coach Jack Bauerle told the newspaper when the trio committed to play for the Bulldogs in 2013, “We are extremely excited about having these three young men join us. They are all great swimmers, and they are highly thought of in the swimming world nationally. Each one is a talented young man, and they will have a profound effect on our program – particularly at the NCAA level.”
Jay Litherland told 11 Alive News, “We got to this level because we trained together and competing with one another.
3. Litherland’s Triplet Brothers Tried to Represent New Zealand in the 2016 Olympics
Litherland’s brothers also attempted to swim at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, for their father’s homeland of New Zealand, but they failed to qualify. In 2019, Kevin Litherland told USASwimming.org, “I considered quitting after NCAAs last year, but I still felt I had more to accomplish. Mick retired after NCAAs, but I was on the National team at the time and wanted to see where I could still take my swimming.”
He added, “Don’t get me wrong – I’m always proud of and happy for Jay and his success. When he made the Olympic team, Mick and I were the first ones on deck to congratulate him. But after that initial excitement, the disappointment and frustration of not making the team also hit me and Mick. Swimming at the Olympics together was something talked about growing up, but only Jay got the chance. It took a little while, but we got over it and cheered Jay on from home during the Olympics.”
Mick Litherland told TeamUSA.org, “All of us dream of being in the Olympics. If one of us makes it, I’d be happy, no matter what else happens.”
According to TeamUSA, “Kevin and Mick are identical, Jay fraternal. They were born two months premature, Kevin first, then Mick, then Jay, all with weakened lung systems and resultant breathing issues that had the boys in and out of hospitals for a few months. Having been competitive swimmers themselves – Andrew to age 12, Chizuko through high school – they knew the sport can often help strengthen lungs, and that also encouraged them to get the boys involved. It started at their backyard pool in Rancho Mirage, and the triplets first joined a team in Miami at age 6.”
4. Litherland’s Father, Andy Litherland, Is an Executive Chef for Ritz-Carlton Hotels
Andy Litherland is an executive chef for The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, according to his LinkedIn profile. He works at an Atlanta hotel.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote about the Litherland family when the swimming brothers were 13. The newspaper wrote, “Chef Litherland also delights in presenting meals with panache, serving them on heated cast-iron trays and arranging side dishes for each diner in small white bowls. He gets help from the entire family in his Alpharetta kitchen, where the boys pitch in to make pot stickers or whip cream for dessert toppings. A typical meal takes about an hour to prepare, Litherland said, ‘but it’s gone in about a minute and a half.'”
Litherland’s father’s career has taken the family around the world. After Japan, the Litherlands lived in Dubai, New Zealand, California and Florida before settling in Georgia. Jay Litherland and his brothers became American citizens when they were in high school, according to the New Zealand Herald.
5. Litherland Was Hoping to Have Family Members Who Live in Japan in Attendance at the Tokyo Pool
Jay Litherland had hoped to have his Japanese family members cheering him on in person at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. At first, the Olympic Committee had decided to allow fans from Japan to be in attendance at events including the swimming competitions at the Tokyo Aquatic Center. But because of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Olympic organizers decided not to allow any spectators.
Litherland had told 11 Alive News that about 20 family members and friends had planned to travel to Tokyo for the Olympics. He is now hoping to make them proud as they watch from home, like his family members in the U.S. and New Zealand.
Litherland has trained and competed alongside Chase Kalisz for years. After they both qualified for the 2020 Olympics, Kalisz told Swimming World Magazine, “I was talking to Jay, it was just like 2016! I look up and see Jay touch and it’s like I forget the entire race! That’s one of my best buddies and my training partners and it means the world to go 1-2 with him.”