Spotlight beckons Caeleb Dressel, swimming’s reluctant star

Jul 17, 2021, 10:06 PM | Updated: Jul 18, 2021, 10:20 am

For a man tabbed as swimming’s next superstar, Caeleb Dressel couldn’t be more disinterested. Of course, he cares about being fast in the pool. He just isn’t into anyone else’s expectations or comparisons. Fame isn’t his thing, either.

“I’d rather just shut up and swim,” the 24-year-old Floridian said.

Dressel could win as many as seven medals in Tokyo. He’ll compete in the 50- and 100-meter freestyles and the 100 butterfly, as well as up to four relays.

Sound familiar? Michael Phelps won a historic eight golds in Beijing in 2008. But don’t suggest to Dressel that he’s the next coming of the all-time winningest Olympian.

“I swim different events than Michael,” he said. “I’m not chasing someone else’s goals. I want to chase my own.”

Dressel was a bit player in his first Olympics five years ago in Rio, winning two relay gold medals while Phelps and Ryan Lochte’s careers as the world’s two dominant male swimmers were winding down.

The 2017 world championships in Budapest, Hungary, was Dressel’s personal coming-out party. He won seven gold medals — more than any other country.

Two years later in Gwangju, South Korea, he smashed Phelps’ 10-year-old record in the 100-meter butterfly while winning six golds and two silvers for a record haul of eight medals.

Dressel is fast and powerful in the sprint events, usually the first one off the blocks. He stands out even before he dives in. At 6-foot-2 and 198 pounds, with a sleeve of tattoos on his left arm and the Olympic rings tattooed on his right forearm, his upper body is all muscle. He’s the one doing the insanely high vertical leaps behind the starting block.

“His talent and his explosion is just mind-blowing,” said Lochte, who trained with Dressel in Gainesville, Florida, before coming up short in his bid to make a fifth Olympic team. “In practice, there is no mercy. He doesn’t back down.”

Dressel is just as hard on himself. “I trash myself more than anybody,” he said.

“If you didn’t have a good swim, but you don’t learn anything, that’s a complete throwaway. That’s a failure. If you have a bad swim and you learn something from it, then it’s not a bad swim anymore,” he said.

Unlike young swimmers, who may unquestioningly follow a coach’s orders, Dressel is frank in his exchanges with coach Gregg Troy.

“It gives us a great cooperative effort to put ourselves in the best possible situation,” Troy said.

While Dressel shuns comparisons to Phelps, he doesn’t hesitate to reach out to the retired superstar. In the midst of the pandemic last year, a frustrated Dressel fired off a ranting text to Phelps.

“It’s been great to have that support from him, from someone I don’t even know that well, but he knows how the sport works,” Dressel said.

So does his wife, Meghan. She swam in high school and briefly in college, giving her shared experience in understanding the ups and downs. She has a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, which she puts to good use in her own home.

“We’re in this together,” she said. “Some days it’s 50-50 and other days it’s 90-10, and I’ll pick up the slack for him.”

Dressel said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just come home and crashed in her arms and said, ‘That sucked.'”

The high school sweethearts married on Valentine’s weekend last February, only moving in together after the wedding. She whips up his favorite dish — chicken piccata — since Dressel admits the only thing he can cook is eggs.

“I could have cried the first day after the wedding,” he said. “I came home from practice and there’s food ready. She dropped me off at a doctor’s appointment, and I was like, ‘That’s how you know you’re married.’

“I told Meghan two months into dating her I was going to marry her. I should have done it way earlier.”

Dressel is just as interested in leading an adventurous life outside the pool.

In late 2019, he started a podcast called “The Ben and Caeleb Show” with best friend Ben Kennedy in which they hash over everything from hummus to building tables to making a bed. Last year during the pandemic, he joined his family in hiking the Appalachian Trail. He likes to hunt, fish, and play video games.

“He’s in this for himself and for his own self-improvement,” Meghan said. “What he can learn as a human, what he can take away for himself.”

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Emily Fox of the U.S., center, leads a string of teammates against New Zealand during their women's...
Associated Press

US forward Alex Morgan supports transgender kids in sports

Forward Alex Morgan says the U.S. national team should have internal discussions about whether to play exhibition games in states that restrict transgender kids from participating in sports. The team is currently preparing for the SheBelieves Cup, a round-robin tournament with Canada, Brazil and Japan that starts next week. Matches are scheduled in Florida and […]
16 hours ago
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference ahead of the Super Bowl 57 football ...
Associated Press

NFL Commissioner Goodell tackles diversity, concussions

PHOENIX (AP) — From diversity to concussions, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated the league is still looking for improvement. As for officiating, he says: “it’s never been better.” Goodell addressed those topics and more, including the Washington Commanders’ investigation, flex scheduling and international play in his annual Super Bowl news conference Wednesday. DeMeco Ryans became […]
16 hours ago
CORRECT ID TO MICHAEL SKUBALA , NOT SIMON HOOPER  - Leeds United's interim head coach Michael Skuba...
Associated Press

Man United stages fightback to draw 2-2 with Leeds in EPL

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United fought back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Leeds in the Premier League on Wednesday. Substitute Jadon Sancho rescued a point for Erik ten Hag’s team, which missed the chance to move level on points with second-place Manchester City. Leeds fired Jesse Marsch on Monday. It is […]
16 hours ago
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones speaks to the media during the NFL football Super B...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Jones sets sack standard for Kansas City defense

PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Jones claims to have very little memory of a relatively benign game in 2017, when the Kansas City Chiefs welcomed the Philadelphia Eagles to Arrowhead Stadium for the second game of the regular season. Jason Kelce remembers it quite well. The veteran Philadelphia center spent the afternoon lining up alongside Isaac […]
2 days ago
Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin speaks after being introduced as the winner of the Alan Page Community ...
Associated Press

Hamlin appears during Super Bowl event to receive award

PHOENIX (AP) — Damar Hamlin made a brief appearance in Phoenix during Super Bowl week to receive the NFLPA’s Alan Page Community Award. The Buffalo Bills safety received the award at the Phoenix Convention Center on Wednesday, a little over a month after he went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the […]
2 days ago
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes answers a question during an NFL football Super Bowl...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Mahomes says ankle will be ready for Super Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes says he’s “definitely in a better spot” when it comes to his ailing right ankle than he was for the AFC championship game, and the All-Pro quarterback doesn’t expect to be limited by it when he leads the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. […]
2 days ago
Spotlight beckons Caeleb Dressel, swimming’s reluctant star