Michael Phelps out, Caeleb Dressel in?

TYR Pro Swim Series at Mission Viejo - Day 2
TYR Pro Swim Series at Mission Viejo - Day 2

Deemed as the successor to American swimming legend Michael Phelps, fellow countryman Caeleb Dressel has a lot riding on his shoulders. Ever since the Rio 2016 Olympics, it's been widely accepted that the Florida native is the next big thing in the world of swimming. These giant expectations haven’t come without cause though, as the 24-year-old holds three world records, in 100m butterfly, 50m freestyle and 100m individual medley.

With Phelps retiring at the peak of his career after Rio 2016, the baton had since been passed onto a new generation of swimmers. Caeleb Dressel, the leading candidate, was part of the team that secured him his first Olympic gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay. He also swam in the heats of the 4x100 medley relay, where he secured his second gold medal when Team USA won in the final.

Here are some of the key developments in Caeleb Dressel's career since the last Olympics in Rio 2016:

World Championships Budapest (2017)

It was at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships, held in Budapest, that the Florida native stamped his authority across a spectrum of events, not only through multiple distances, but strokes as well. He set a number of records and became only the second person to win seven gold medals at an individual world championship event, a feat that had been achieved just once earlier, by Phelps in 2007.

Caeleb Dressel set the timing screens ablaze as he clocked 22.76 seconds in the 50m butterfly, which was the American record at the time. He also led the 4x100 mixed freestyle and 4x100 mixed medley relay, both of which broke world records. Apart from these, he also secured a win in the 50m and 100 m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 4x100 freestyle and 4x100 medley relays.

Also read: Explaining US swimming sensation Caeleb Dressel's tattoos

NCAA Championship (2018)

At the NCAA Division Championship in 2018, Caeleb Dressel was easily the best swimmer to have entered the tournament. This was evident from his clean sweep of all the events that he participated in for the second time. He was awarded the CSCAA Swimmer of the Year award for the third time and broke a number of records in the process, including some that he had set himself.

World Aquatics Championship (2019)

The World Aquatics Championship in Gwangju, South Korea, saw Caeleb Dressel pick up eight medals, including six gold and two silver. He also famously broke Phelps’ 10-year-old 100m butterfly record by 0.32 seconds, with a time of 49.50 seconds.


He won a gold medal in all four individual events that he participated in and also became the first American ever to win the 50m butterfly event.

International Swimming League (2020)

We witnessed the most recent example of Dressel’s prowess in the International Swimming League last year. Representing Cali Condors, he broke four world records, including the 100m butterfly (47.8 seconds) and 50m freestyle (20.16 seconds), and twice broke his 100m individual medley with times of 49.88 seconds and 49.28 seconds.

Also read: Tokyo 2020 - Can Caeleb Dressel Match Michael Phelps' Haul of Gold Medals at one Olympic Games?

Caeleb Dressel "not in the sport" to beat Michael Phelps

With Caeleb Dressel shaping up to be the feather in the cap for a very strong US swimming team, he can easily account for over five medals. But the real question, for many, is whether he will be able to match the legendary record set by Phelps when he surpassed Mark Spitz.

On being asked about the possibility of this happening, he said:

“I don’t want to say I just brush it off, because I know it’s going to be inevitable, but that’s not why I’m in this sport... It’s not to beat Michael. It’s not to go faster than Michael.”

For now, the soaring swimmer will no doubt have his sights firmly set on the Tokyo Olympics. If his form in the run-up to the quadrennial event is anything to go by, plenty more records stand to be demolished.

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Edited by Sandeep Banerjee