Olympic final: Dressel 3-for-3

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 8/4/21

With dominating performances in his two week visit to the Tokyo Olympics, Clay High swimmer Caeleb Dressel put to rest the question of how good he is in the pool with three individual gold medals, …

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Olympic final: Dressel 3-for-3

Posted

With dominating performances in his two week visit to the Tokyo Olympics, Clay High swimmer Caeleb Dressel put to rest the question of how good he is in the pool with three individual gold medals, two relay gold medals and three new records; one world and Olympic in two events.

“I was just trying to enjoy the moment before I walked out to look at the Rings (Olympic Rings),” said Dressel, answering a press conference question on his momentary stop as he entered the arena before delivering a world record gold medal win in the 100 freestyle. “I don’t want to become immune to the moment because I’m used to the feeling that racing offers me because I’m used to it; competing at 2016, worlds. I just wanted to take hold of that moment and enjoy it.”

Along the way, Dressel, who unleashed his lethal starts in all of his races, dispatched a handful of challengers that included two defending Olympic champions with one attempting to defeat Dressel a second time in two Olympic finals, but unsuccessful.

Also, Dressel took care of business against a relative newcomer; a 16-year Dressel-like phenom, who was proclaimed to be a major challeger, but wound up a historical asterisk next to Dressel’s front-running dominance.

The American Olympic team did have its share of highlights in other swimming events with distance swimmer Katie Ledecky rebounding from her first Olympic loss (400 free) to add two more gold medal individual wins; in the 800 freestyle and in the first-ever 1500 meters for women; Rob Finke, a University of Florida distance swimmer who powered home to wins in the final 50 meters of both the 800 and 1500 meter races. Finke’s 1500 win was a first for an American swimmer.

The United States got a 1-2 finish in the 400 individual medley behind Chase Calisz and Jay Litherland; a gold medal 17 year old in Lydia Jacoby in the 100 breaststroke with RIO champion Lilly King, also of the United States, in third; and a bronze medal to 20 year old Erica Sullivan in the 1500 freestyle behind Ledecky.

First, for Dressel, the world record; a 49.45 split to win the Olympic gold medal in the 100 butterfly despite a late charge from Russian Kristof Milak pushing Dressel at the finish with a runnerup split of 49.62. Dressel previously held the Olympic record at 49.71 as well as the world record for the event at 49.50.

“The pressure of the 100 freestyle was fine,” said Dressel, in a press conference after winning the 100 freestyle gold medal. “When you turn that pressure into stress, that’s when it becomes a problem. My first couple swims, I felt like I was not handling the stress. I started to find my groove in the 100 semifinal and final.”

Second, the Olympic record; a 47.02 finish in the 100 freestyle with a late challenge; this time from RIO defending champion Kyle Chalmers of Australia. The previous Olympic record was 47.05 from 2008.

In the 100 free, Romania’s 16 year old phenom, David Popovici, who set a junior record when he swam a 47.30 at the European Junior Nationals and was considered a legit threat, finished at seventh in 48.04.

Third, knocking out 2012 Olympic 50 free champion, 2016 Olympic 50 free runnerup Florent Manaudou of France, Dressel demolished the Olympic record of Carlos Cielo of Brazil; 21.30 in 2008, with a 21.07 split. Cielo still owns the world record of 20.95 from 2009. Dressel swam the 50 with no breaths.

In relays, Dressel latched on to two more golds with dramatic wins in the 4 x 100 free relay and the 4 x 100 medley relay. The medley relay, with anchor Zach Apple powering the final 100 freestyle, set a new world record to defeat Great Britain. Dressel torched the butterfly leg with a 49.0 split with a fast final 50 against Great Britain’s James Guy. Dressel’s 49.0 leg is the fastest ever 100 butterfly, but not a record because it was not the leadoff leg.

The United States beat Italy in the 4 x 100 free relay, but finished fifth in the mixed medley relay.

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