Caeleb Dressel is ready to make a splash at the Olympics.
With the retirement of the legendary Michael Phelps following the 2016 Rio Olympics, Dressel has emerged as the face and co-captain of a suddenly very young U.S. men's swimming team.
Swimming in the wake of the most decorated Olympian of all time isn't the easiest role to dive into. But the 24-year-old Florida native, based on his performances leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, seems prepared to live up to the gold standard that has been set by his predecessor.
Dressel is already a two-time gold medalist
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As a teammate of Phelps during the 2016 Rio Olympics, Dressel helped the U.S. win gold as the lead-off swimmer in the 4x100m free relay and in the heats of the 4x100m medley relay.
Dressel's medal count could double, or even triple, during the 2020 games. He is projected by experts to be in medal contention for six to seven events, having won the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly during the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. Dressel would have to take part in eight events and win each to match Phelps' gold medal record for a single Games. He has the potential to come very close.
He has dominated at the recent world championships
Dressel also has won plenty of gold at the previous two world championships. He took home 15 medals overall, some of which he later gifted to family and friends.
Dressel captured seven gold medals at the 2017 world championships and then followed that up with six gold medals and two silvers in the 2019 championships, becoming the only swimmer to earn eight medals at a single world championships.
In 2019, Dressel tied his own American record in the 50m freestyle with a time of 21.04 seconds. After his victory in the 100m freestyle, which he won in 47.39 seconds, he celebrated as if he had just won Olympic gold, saying afterwards he recalled being in the same building in 2012 as a 15-year-old watching Phelps and Ryan Lochte. Now, Dressel is the one to watch as one of the marquee names at the Tokyo Olympics.
Dressel already has one of Phelps’ swimming records
Dressel has started to rewrite the record books that Phelps once authored.
At the 2019 world championships, Dressel won the 100m butterfly in 49.5 seconds, breaking the previous world record of 49.82 set by Phelps at the 2009 championships. Dressel also holds the American record in the 50m freestyle (21.04 seconds), the 100m freestyle (46.96) and the 50m butterfly (22.35).
Dressel carries around a very sentimental blue bandana
Whenever Dressel is in the pool, a blue bandana is nearby.
The bandana belonged to Dressel's former high school teacher and mentor, Claire McCool, who died of cancer in November 2017. After McCool’s death, her husband gave the bandana to Dressel and it has served as an inspiration for the swimmer ever since.
"It's the most important thing in my life for a physical object," Dressel said. "It's just nice to carry her behind the blocks in a physical form. She's with me every race, and it will be until I finish my career. You can get used to that bandana for a while."
Dressel carries the Olympic rings on his right arm
Dressel is pretty easily identified when in the water. He's the one with a lot of tattoos.
The ink on his left arm alone includes, among a full sleeve of tattoos, a bald eagle, a bear and an alligator. Tattooed on his right arm are the Olympic rings.
Dressel recently married his high school sweetheart, Meghan Haila
If Dressel has a gold medal placed around his neck in Tokyo, it won’t be the first golden bling he has put on this year.
On Valentine’s Day eve, Dressel had a wedding ring placed on his finger when he married his high school sweetheart and fellow swimmer, Meghan Haila.
The two first met as teenagers while swimming on the same club team in their home state of Florida. Dressel went on to swim at the University of Florida, while Haila swam at Florida State, where she was a teammate of Dressel’s older sister, Kaitlyn, for one season.
The newlyweds are active, and entertaining, while documenting married life and Olympic life on Instagram.
A few gold medals will go quite nicely with Dressel’s gold ring.