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Caeleb Dressel Secures First Win Since Return at the 2023 US Open

Jay Wei

Caeleb Dressel celebrates after winning the 100m fly.

Caeleb Dressel is arguably one of the most impressive swimmers of all time. His exemplary fitness level and impeccable technique have carried him to the pinnacle of swimming, breaking world records held by the legendary Michael Phelps, earning multiple Olympic gold medals for the United States, winning dozens of World Championship titles, and pushing the limits of the sport further and further. 

After taking a hiatus from swimming at the 2022 World Swimming Championships, Caleb Dressel returned to swimming over the summer. He competed first at the Atlantic Classic in May, followed by the US International Team Trials in June. Just this past week, Dressel competed at the annual US Open, where he won the 100 fly, earned 4th place in the 50 free, and 10th in the 100 free. Not only was this Dressel’s best time since his break from swimming, but swimmers and community members were incredibly happy to see him win again. Despite not fully back to being in shape for international meets, Caleb Dressel is certainly looking to make a comeback in the swimming world as he prepares for the upcoming Paris Olympic Games next summer.

Born in Green Clove, Florida, Caeleb Dressel specializes in sprint events and butterfly. His talent was exposed early on, breaking the 13-14 National Age Group Record in 2011 (23.50) and many more later. He swam for the University of Florida during college, holding 3 NCAA records in the 50 free (17.63), 100 free (39.90, only person ever to break 40), and 100 fly (42.80, only person ever to break 43). Dressel represented the US at the Rio Olympic Games, winning a gold medal in the 4 x 100 free relay (3:09.92) with Nathan Adrian, Ryan Held, and Michael Phelps. He also swam the 100 free as an individual event, going 48.02 to earn 6th place in the finals. Dressel’s rise to worldwide fame came in 2019, after he broke Michael Phelp’s 100m fly world record, going 49.50 at the Gwangju 2019 World Championships and becoming the second person ever to go under 50 at that time. At the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, all eyes were on Dressel as he swam the 100 fly, 50 free, 100 free, and the relay events. Dressel won each time he touched the water for his individual events, going 47.02 in the 100 free (Olympic Record), 21.07 in the 50 free (Olympic record), and 49.45 in the 100 fly (World record). Over 7 years, Dressel has earned 7 Olympic Titles, 13 World Championship Titles (LCM), 6 World Championship Titles (SCM), 10 NCAA Titles, and much more. Undoubtedly he is one of the most decorated swimmers of all time, and perhaps the greatest swimmer of his time. 

In 2022, Dressel entered into the meet as the defending World Champion in the 100 fly, 50 fly, 50 free, and 100 free. After winning the 50 fly (22.57) on the first day, Dressel pulled out of the World Championships entirely on day two. He then commenced an 8-month break from swimming, where he sought counseling and worked on his mental health. In fact, Dressel isn’t the only one struggling with mental health. Some of the other biggest names in the sport, like Adam Peaty, world record holder in the 50 breast and 100 breast, and Kristóf Milák, world record holder in the 200 fly, have shared the same complications. “The easiest way to put it is my body kept score. A lot of things I had shut down, and it all came boiling up,” Dressel said at the US National Championships over the summer, “It wasn’t just one thing where I was like, ‘I think I need to step away.’ It was a bunch of things that kind of came crumbling down at once. And I knew that was my red flag right there. Multiple red flags. It was a giant red flag.” 

Dressel returned to swimming in spring, training with Florida head coach Anthony Nesty on his former team. He was entered into the Atlantic Classic in May as his first meet since his return and the US International Team Trials in June. Despite not being in his best shape, Dressel was able to earn 5th in the 100 fly (51.66) and 3rd in the 50 fly (23.35) at the team trials, just missing the qualification for a spot on Team US. “He’s very happy where he’s at now. Now we have a starting point and we can go from there,” Nesty said in an interview about Dressel. “Obviously he wanted to do better, but for us, it’s just posting times that he could improve upon.” 

From November 29th to December 2nd, the annual US Open was held in the Greensboro pool facility. Open to both domestic and international swimmers, the US Open rallies hundreds of the fastest swimmers in the world. Dressel was entered in to swim the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 fly. In the 50 free, Dressel secured a win in the B-Final with a time of 21.99, going under 22 for the first time since his return. In the 100 free, Dressel earned second place in the B-Final just behind Josh Liendo, going 48.85. After a solid swim in the 100 fly in prelims (51.83), Dressel came into finals seeded 3rd place behind Josh Liendo and Ilya Kharun. Competition was tight for Dressel as he hoped to secure his first win. Swimming in lane three, Dressel was 6th place at the 50-meter mark, splitting 24.42 compared to Santo Condorelli (24.03), who touched first. However, of all the competitors, Dressel had the best back half of the field and finished the race with a time of 51.31, winning the race. “That got the biggest cheer since we got here,” commentator Rowdy Gaines said as Dressel won the 100 fly, “The crowd erupted…it feels good to see his name up there in first, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen that.” In a post-race interview, Dressel expressed how it was “just fun to be back” and racing with everyone. His unmatched determination and persistence while recognizing what his body needs is an inspiration to the future generation, and things will surely get better for Dressel from here on out.


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