Caeleb Dressel finished his collegiate career as arguably the most prolific swimmers to come out of a storied University of Florida program, winning 10 NCAA titles during his collegiate career.
He’s now on his way to potentially becoming the next face of United States men’s swimming in the post-Michael Phelps era.
Dressel earned his first medal of the Tokyo Olympics with Team USA’s first-place finish in the 4x100-meter freestyle relay race on Monday morning (Sunday night in the United States) at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. The United States won the race in 3:08.97, beating second-place Italy by more than a second. Australia won the bronze. It’s the United States’ third gold medal in the event over the last four Olympics, also winning it in 2016 and 2008.
“It feels great,” Dressel said on NBC after the race. “We knew there was a huge target on our back every go-round, so it feels nice. I mean, I’d say we dominated that pretty well.”
That sounds about right.
Dressel swam the leadoff leg for the United States, a tactical approach because of his explosive starts and to give him a chance to take advantage of clean water at the start of the race. He finished his leg in 47.26 seconds, giving the United States a half-second lead over Italy before passing it off to his teammates. Blake Pieroni kept the USA in the lead before they fell .13 seconds behind France after Bowen Becker’s run on the third. Zach Apple’s phenomenal anchor leg — a field-best 46.69-second split — sealed the race for the USA.
“We’re never gonna doubt ourselves,” Dressel said. “That’s not how Team USA works. We had I think a couple people rule us out in that event. We’re never going to take that, so it feels nice to dominate that event and have that back on home soil.”
It was a solid start, but it’s just the beginning of what should be a hectic week for Dressel.
If all goes well, the 24-year-old could win six medals in Tokyo. That includes three in individual events (100-meter freestyle, 50-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly) and two more in relays (4x100 meter mixed medley relay and men’s 4x100 meter medley relay).
Four of those finals take place over the final two days of Olympic swimming competition.
Those would go along with the pair of gold medals he won in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 24 total medals (19 gold, five silver) he won at world championships between 2017 and 2019.
Dressel’s potential Olympic schedule
Note: All times are Eastern
▪ Tuesday: Men’s 100 meter freestyle heats (7:02 a.m. - 7:20 a.m.) and semifinals (9:30 p.m. - 9:40 p.m.)
▪ Wednesday: Men’s 100 meter freestyle final (10:37 p.m.)
▪ Thursday: Men’s 100 meter butterfly heats (6:42 a.m. - 7:02 a.m.); mixed 4x100-meter medley relay heats (7:17 a.m.-7:25 a.m.); men’s 100-meter butterfly semifinals (9:30 p.m. - 9:40 p.m.)
▪ Friday: Men’s 50-meter freestyle heats (6 a.m. - 6:19 a.m.); men’s 4x100-meter medley relay heats (8:01 a.m.-8:10 a.m.); men’s 100-meter butterfly finals (9:30 p.m.); mixed 4x100-meter medley relay (10:43 p.m.)
▪ Saturday: Men’s 50-meter freestyle final (9:30 p.m.); men’s 4x100-meter medley relay final (10:36 p.m.)