Caeleb Dressel’s final tally at the 2017 FINA World Championships is one that will be remembered for some time. It was quite a haul.
- Eight finals
- Seven gold medals
- Three individual American records
- Two world records on relays
And most importantly? He’s one youngster who seems destined to become the face of United States swimming.
After his performance last week in Budapest, Hungary, Dressel’s name is already being thrown into the same pool as Michael Phelps — the 28-time Olympic medalist and the only other swimmer to ever win seven gold medals in a single world championships.
“I don’t think it puts any more pressure on me,” Dressel said at a news conference after winning the 100-meter butterfly on Saturday. “I just want to keep doing my own thing.”
At 20 years old, Dressel’s dominance in the sport is just getting started.
Dressel isn’t putting his focus on that, though. The Florida senior knows his career is just getting started.
Caeleb Dressel at the world championships
It was only a matter of time before Caeleb Dressel found his way to the top of the international scene.
During his first three years with the Florida Gators, Dressel has won six NCAA championships and earned 21 All-America honors for his success in freestyle and butterfly races.
He jumps out to an early lead with his strong push off the block and quick reaction time and then torpedoes through the water, gliding down his lane and past his opponents with each stroke. After he touches the wall, his eyes quickly dart to the scoreboard. After seeing his name at the top of the leaderboard, he slams his fists in the water, taking a moment to soak in what he just accomplished.
And then he goes out and does it all over again.
All of this was on full display in Budapest last week, as Dressel went from event to event and toppled some of the top swimmers in the world with ease.
Just look at his results in the finals for further evidence:
- The 50-meter freestyle: Dressel set the American record with a 21.15-second dash in the finals, winning by 0.12 seconds.
- The 100-meter freestyle: Dressel won the final in an American-record 47.17 seconds, besting fellow American Nathan Adrian by 0.7 seconds in the final and besting Adrian’s American record by 0.35 seconds. It’s the third-fastest time in the world in the 100-meter freestyle.
- The 100-meter butterfly: Dressel won the final in 49.86 seconds, just 0.04 seconds off of Michael Phelps’ world record. The silver medalist at the world championships finished three-quarters of a second later.
- The relays: Dressel also had the fastest leg of his competitors in each of the four relays he competed in. The United States won gold in all four of those relays and set world record marks in the 4×100-meter mixed medley relay (3:38.56) and the 4×100-meter mixed freestyle relay (3:19.60).
The lone event Dressel competed in but didn’t medal was the 50-meter butterfly, a sprint event he doesn’t train for until international competition season. Even at that, he still broke the American record with a 22.76-second performance in the semifinals. His 22.89-second swim in the finals was good for fourth place, 0.05 seconds off of the podium and 0.15 seconds away from gold.
Not his first time on the big stage
While the 2017 FINA World Championships served as Caeleb Dressel’s breakout event of his fledgling career, it certainly isn’t his first time on the big stage.
That came much earlier.
At age 17, he won six medals — one gold — at the 2013 FINA Junior World Championships.
One year later, he won the 50-meter freestyle at the 2014 USA Swimming Speedo Junior National Championships.
And then there was last summer, when he won two gold medals at the 2016 Olympics as part of the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and the 4×100-meter medley relay. He also finished sixth in the 100-meter freestyle in 48.02 seconds — almost a second slower than his American-record time at the world championships this year.
Leaving his mark at Florida
While the attention surrounding Caeleb Dressel is revolving around what he has done — and can do — on the international stage, Dressel still has one more year of competition left at the University of Florida.
And if he competes at the level he has over the last three years, he has the potential to go down as the top swimmer in Gators history.
Dressel needs to win one more national championship and three more All-America honors to tie Gator great and fellow Olympian Ryan Lochte for the most in each category by a male swimmer in school history. He could become the first to win the 50-yard freestyle all four years at the NCAA Championships. No one has won the event at the NCAA championship more than three times.
Dressel is the back-to-back defending SEC Swimmer of the Year and was also named the College Swimming Coaches Association of America co-swimmer of the year each of the past two years. He owns NCAA records in three events (50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, 100-yard butterfly).
With Dressel’s help, the Florida men’s team has finished in the top five at the NCAA Championship each of the past three years. A fourth top-five finish is likely in 2018.
Caeleb Dressel’s future
With his career on the rise, Caeleb Dressel will have his share of opportunities to continue to represent his country. Another Olympics nod in 2020 is almost inevitable.
If anyone has doubts about whether he’ll continue to swim at the highest level possible for his country, just look at the ink on his arms and chest.
An American flag stretches across his left bicep. The Olympic rings rest on his right forearm.
An eagle lies on top of the flag and extends to his shoulder and chest. It is symbolic of his favorite Bible verse: Isaiah 40:31.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength,” the verse reads. “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”