Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo Olympics: Dressel steps up as Team USA adapt to life after Phelps

Filed on July 31, 2021
Caeleb Dressel celebrates after powering to the 100m butterfly title. — AFP

He has a chance of winning two more golds in Sunday's final session when he starts as favourite in the 50m freestyle and will be part of the men's 4x100 medley relay team

In their first Olympics since 23-times gold medallist Michael Phelps retired, the United States swimming team needed Caeleb Dressel to deliver, and with three gold medals, so far, he has certainly not let them down.

On Saturday, Dressel powered to the 100m butterfly title, adding to his success in the 100m freestyle and his gold medal from the 4x100m freestyle relay.

He has a chance of winning two more golds in Sunday's final session when he starts as favourite in the 50m freestyle and will be part of the men's 4x100 medley relay team.

Should he end with five golds he would match Phelps's haul from his last Games in Rio and surpass the four golds the American great won in London.

It has been a disappointing Games in the pool for the U.S team, who won 16 gold medals at each of the last two Olympics but head into Sunday's final events on 'just' eight.

Katie Ledecky lost her 200 and 400 freestyle crowns to Australian rival Ariarne Titmus but came good in the 800 and 1,500 events, becoming the first female swimmer to win six individual golds.

A confident, strong character, Dressel has given the U.S. team the kind of swagger and personality they have been known for down the years.

He is also willing to take on a full schedule.

After beating Hungarian Kristof Milak in the 100 butterfly in a world record time, 40 minutes later Dressel was posting the fastest time in the 50 freestyle semi-final — he even managed to cram in a medal ceremony in-between.

Keeping loose in the diving pool, Dressel then returned for a third race in the mixed medley relay, swimming the anchor leg as the United States finished fifth.

"Caleb is a real leader on our team," Ledecky said.

"I mean, it was so impressive what he did today swimming three races, and he leads, both in and out of the water.

"He's just an incredible swimmer, it's just amazing to watch him get up on the blocks and race and see him get out with his start to those huge leads.

"I think we all admire his start. But yeah, he just has a great family, really cares about his team mates and is just a really great presence on the pool deck for Team USA."

Like all serial winners, Dressel takes losing hard and he was not pleased with the team's performance in the mixed medley relay where he was left with too much ground to make up on the final leg.

"Fifth place is unacceptable for USA Swimming and we're very aware of that, our standard is gold," he said. "That's what we're always shooting for in every race, and we didn't execute well."

Dressel makes sure he learns from every competition and he has been taking notes during the Olympics to give himself some additional material for his post-Games analysis.

"After the meet, I’ll go back and watch my races. I’ve been journaling throughout the whole meet. Every swim, what I could have done better. Every swim, what I thought I did well," he said.

After a packed Saturday schedule, however, Dressel was unlikely to be going over his notes.

"I’m staying on routine as much as I can. But I know today was a busy day. I could use a nap and a shower.

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