They will be the stars of the Games… | Caeleb Dressel, in the wake of Michael Phelps

After Mark Spitz, Matt Biondi and Michael Phelps, American swimming hopes to have found its new monarch: Caeleb Dressel.

The 24-year-old swimmer, already double Olympic champion in 2016 in Rio (in relay), could win in six or even seven events in Tokyo, a feat he has already achieved at the 2017 Worlds.

Now 35, Phelps will not be at the Games for the first time since 1996 and several other veterans – Ryan Lochte, Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian – have also bowed out. It is therefore on Dressel’s shoulders that the task of leading a particularly young American team rests, with no less than 11 swimmers under the age of 20.

Along with his compatriot Katie Ledecky, the sprint specialist is the only real contender for a medal crop among the Americans. And the lack of depth on the men’s side could make it harder for him in the relay.

“The departure of the veterans leaves a huge void, it’s obvious, recognized the sprint specialist. We’re all going to have to learn fast and try to do a little more each.

“And the predictions about me don’t bother me. I understand the interest of amateurs in my career, my performances, those of my teammates, and I appreciate the support of the public during competitions. “

For me, the most important thing is to swim faster. Anything that doesn’t help me swim faster is irrelevant.

Caeleb Dressel

And he swims fast.

Over the past two years, Dressel has recorded the fastest times in his three favorite disciplines, the 50m and 100m freestyle and the 100m butterfly. In Tokyo, he could also take part in the 200m freestyle, in addition to the relays.

The Floridian is the only active swimmer to cross the 47 seconds (46.96 s) mark in the 100 freestyle, just 0.05 s behind the record set by Frenchman Alain Bernard and equaled by Brazilian Cesar Cielo at the era of full swimsuits which have since been banned.

And he struck a big blow, at the beginning of July, during the American selections in Omaha, by setting the best time of the year in the 50 freestyle, 21.29 s, on Saturday morning in the preliminary round. The next night, in the final, he dropped to 20.05s, vividly showing that he had the wherewithal to tackle several world records in Tokyo.

“I like to choose my moments,” he said after his victory in the 100 freestyle, his first of the selections.

“I was very excited and there was a lot of emotion packed into this performance. All the fighting, the efforts we had to make during the pandemic and the quarantines, the difficulties in finding swimming pools to train. It was more than just a race. ”

Anyone who once sported a tattoo of a huge eagle and an American flag on his left shoulder – since replaced by a mythical creature – has seen an unusual progression, somewhat on the fringes of other elite swimmers. It wasn’t until the University of Florida that he became a star.

In 2012, at age 15, he himself was in the stands of the CHI Center in Omaha to follow the American selections for the London Games and to cheer on Phelps and his idols.

“I’ll never forget being a 15-year-old in those stands,” he reminded the crowd after his victory in the 50 freestyle. Right now, other 15 year olds are out there and they might be thinking, “Next time I’m going to beat that punk.” Please do it! I don’t want to swim all my life. ”

His exploits

PHOTO JEFF ROBERSON, ARCHIVES ASSOCIATED PRESS

Caeleb Dressel at the American selections last June

– Double gold medalist at the Rio Games (4x100m freestyle relay, 4x100m medley relay).

– 12 gold medals and two silver medals at the 2017 and 2019 Worlds.

– His seven titles at the 2017 Worlds in Budapest tied a Michael Phelps record.

– Holder of four world records – 100m butterfly (long pool and short pool), 50m freestyle (short pool), 100m medley (short pool).

His Olympic ambitions

PHOTO JEFF ROBERSON, ARCHIVES ASSOCIATED PRESS

Caeleb Dressel will be the favorite in the 100m butterfly event.

Holder of the world record in the 100m butterfly, Dressel will be the favorite of this event in Tokyo. His task promises to be more complicated in freestyle, even though he was the fastest this year in both 50m and 100m. These races are so short, so fiercely contested, that they are often played at the photo finish. Although he did not take part in the final of the American selection, Dressel is also expected to participate in the three men’s relays and the mixed relay. On paper, he could therefore approach the records of Phelps (eight gold medals in Beijing), but will have to count on the support of his teammates.

His rivals

PHOTO DAVE HUNT, AAP / ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES

Cody simpson

Australia’s Kyle Chalmers, 100 freestyle champion in Rio, is expected to be Dressel’s main opponent in the flagship swimming event. The American had narrowly won at the 2019 Worlds. Well recovered after surgery to a shoulder, Chalmers dominated the Australian selections and will be the leader of a team that intends to shake up the Americans. Over 50m, the list of contenders is longer, but Frenchman Florent Manaudou should be on the podium.

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