Swimming sensation Caeleb Dressel has done everything in the last couple of years to justify his star billing ahead of the Tokyo Olympics and ensure the comparisons with his childhood idol Michael Phelps are not far-fetched.
Seven gold medals at the 2017 FINA World Championship in Budapest, followed by six more at the next edition in Guangzhou, meant the 24-year-old American is expected to blaze the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
His golden run at the World Championships initially fuelled hopes that Dressel might have a shot at emulating Phelps’ incredible haul of eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. But with the two World Championships events – 50m butterfly and 4x100m mixed freestyle relay — in which Dressel won a gold, not being a part of the Olympics schedule, Phelps’ record is likely to stay intact.
But if Dressel’s current form is anything to go by, he is set to dazzle in this year’s Olympics.
Caeleb Dressel gearing up for Tokyo with records
Caeleb Dressel has his sights firmly set on three individual sprint disciplines – 100m and 50m freestyle along with his pet event 100m butterfly. Even the pandemic could not slow him down as he created two new short-course world records in the 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly at the International Swimming League (ISL) finals last year.
In the 50m freestyle, Dressel lowered his own world record from 20.24 seconds to 20.16. In the 100m butterfly, he clocked 47.78 to eclipse a record held by South Africa’s Chad le Clos.
Watch Dressel break the world record in 50m Freestyle:
Dressel has dominated this event in the long course as well, having snatched the world record from Phelps. He shaved off 0.32 seconds from Phelps’ existing mark to clock an impressive 49.50 seconds in 100m butterfly at the 2019 World Championships.
The 100m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics will be a blockbuster event that will pit the Rio gold medallist Kyle Chalmers of Australia against world champion Dressel. The American had pipped Chalmers in a thriller at the 2019 World Championships. Having recovered from shoulder surgery, the Australian is gunning for revenge, setting the stage for an intriguing rivalry.
Caeleb Dressel is a certainty for the two relay teams (Mixed 4x100m medley and men’s 4x100m medley), where USA look a hot favorite to finish on top. However, Dressel is undecided whether he will take part in the 200m freestyle to put himself in contention for a place in the 4x200 freestyle relay team.
Caeleb Dressel is not new to the victory podium at the Olympics. The Rio Olympics was his first ticket to the big league. Dressel was part of two gold medal-winning American relay teams, which boasted the likes of Phelps, Ryan Murphy and Nathan Adrian.
As a 19-year-old, he, however, found the going tough in the individual event and finished sixth in 100m freestyle.
Caeleb Dressel is not new to stardom and accolades, having hit the headlines as a prodigious swimming sensation right from his junior years. Even as the media arc light follows all his training sessions, there is no chest thumping bravado in the run-up to the Olympics. The 24-year-old downplays all questions on comparisons with Phelps and whether he is keen to chase his Beijing record.
Even as a junior athlete, Caeleb Dressel preferred to be grounded, seeking solace in motivational books and the Bible. In his initial years on the international swimming circuit, he had a fascination for painting references of his favorite verses from the Bible on his face.
Dressel admits that he has been greatly inspired by Isaiah’s verse — “But those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles," prompting him to ink a large eagle tattoo on his left shoulder.
The Tokyo Olympics is the perfect stage for him to soar high and create his own legacy as one of the world’s most celebrated swimmers.