Caeleb Dressel SuccessStory
When Michael Phelps retired in 2016, there was no clear indication if another American-born swimmer can replicate his unprecedented success. Four years later, one athlete in the form of Caeleb Dressel is about to answer the call, already possessing seven Olympic gold medals, winning five of them in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
Childhood and Education
Caeleb Remel Dressel was born in Green Cove Springs in the state of Florida, the United States on August 16, 1996. He is the third of four children with his father working as a veterinarian in Jacksonville, Florida.
Dressel displayed great interest in swimming at a young age, attending Clay High School while training at Bolles School (a one-hour ride from Clay High School) at the same time. He trained with the school’s varsity team, the Bolles School Sharks. He later enrolled at the University of Florida, forging a successful collegiate career before graduating in 2018.
Even before his time at the University of Florida, Dressel was already competing in multiple international events including the 2013 FINA World Junior Swimming Championships. In the event, he won six gold medals including a gold in the 100m freestyle, breaking the record for most medals won in the tournament’s history. A year prior, he became the first swimmer under 16 years old to break 20 seconds in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials 200-yard free relay.
Dressel was ranked fourth in the world in 2015 after winning the 50m freestyle in the National Championships. He finished with a time of 21.53 in the said event held in San Antonio, Texas which also saw him win the 100m freestyle.
Between 2015 and 2018, Dressel also became one of the most decorated swimmers in NCAA history representing the University of Florida Gators. He won the 2015 NCAA 50-yard freestyle event and went on to break the American 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle records during the 2016 NCAA Division I Championships. He finished the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 18.20 and 40.46 in the 100-yard freestyle.
At the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships, Dressel won his first relay national title as well as three individual races (50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle, and 100-yard butterfly). He also broke the American and U.S. Open records in the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard butterfly, finishing with 17.63 and 42.80 respectively. He then swept all individual events by winning the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 39.90.
2016 Rio Olympics
Dressel turned heads in his first Olympics Games in Rio 2016 after winning gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay. Together with teammates Michael Phelps, Ryan Held, and Nathan Adrian, Dressel finished the 4x100m freestyle relay with a time of 3:09.92. During the event, Dressel also swam the lead-off leg which was the second-fastest opening leg in the field (48.10).
Dressel secured his second Olympic gold during the 4x100m freestyle relay. He recorded a freestyle split of 47.74 in the event heats which led to the United States winning the final. He then capped off his first Summer Games by finishing sixth in the 100m freestyle.
2019 World Championships
Competing at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships, Dressel dominated both individual and team events by winning six golds and two silvers. He became the first American to win the 50m butterfly in the biennial event and also broke the national record in 100m freestyle (46.96).
During the semi-final of the 100m butterfly, Dressel eclipsed Phelps’ 10-year record after finishing with a record time of 49.50 seconds (only 0.32 seconds ahead of Phelps). He then won the gold the next day. He finished the tournament with a silver in the men's 4x100m medley relay while also being recognized as the FINA male swimmer of the competition.
2020 Tokyo Olympics
After dominating the U.S. Olympic Trials, Dressel was ready to go for the Tokyo Olympics which was postponed for more than a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. He was named co-captain of the U.S. men’s swimming team together with Ryan Murphy who also competed in the Rio Games.
Dressel won his first individual Olympic gold in the 100m freestyle final, finishing with a time of 47.02 and also setting a new Olympic record in the process. He overtook Australian Kyle Chalmers who won the event four years prior in Rio.
Dressel again set a new Olympic record, this time in the 50m. freestyle (final), 4x100m medley relay (final), and 100m. butterfly (semifinal heat). He ended up with gold medals for the three events, also breaking the 100m butterfly record set by Hungarian Kristof Milak (49.71) moments earlier and setting a new world record in the 4x100m medley relay (3:26.78) together with teammates Murphy, Michael Andrew, and Zach Apple.
Dressel capped off the Olympics Games with five gold medals, becoming only the fourth male in Olympic history to win five golds, joining Phelps, Mark Spitz, and Matt Biondi. “I can be proud of every swim, every effort I put in the water, every mental approach to every single race,” Dressel said during his post-Olympic interview.
Dressel is married to Meghan Haila whom he met in high school. They began dating in 2013 and eventually tied the knot in February 2021. He also started a YouTube channel in 2011 with his content mostly focusing on swimming analysis videos.
One of his more popular uploads was the collaboration with GQ magazine analyzing swimming scenes in movies, particularly in “Cast Away”, “Kingsman: The Secret Service”, and “Pride”).
At 24 years old, Olympic swimmer Caeleb Dressel has established himself as one of the world’s best athletes. He may or may not overtake Phelps, but he already has a successful career and is set to continue leading the U.S. men’s swimming in future tournaments to come.