Caeleb Dressel in Solid Position After His First Meet Back

Caeleb Dressel -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Caeleb Dressel in Solid Position After His First Meet Back

At his first meet following a long layoff from swimming, Caeleb Dressel posted average times. He was not carrying the magic of his performances at the World Championships in 2017 and 2019 or the Olympics in 2021, a series of meets from which he collected 18 gold medals, 10 of them in individual events. At the Atlanta Classic, the 26-year-old did not even win any of his events, placing second in the 100 butterfly (52.41), third in the 50 freestyle (22.57) and fifth in the 100 free prelims (50.29) before skipping the final.

Plenty of other Americans have surpassed those times so far this season, putting these rivals in a much stronger position heading into next month’s U.S. Nationals. But even if Dressel does not race any other in-season meets, it would be foolish to count out the 26-year-old as a significant player in the battle for spots on the World Championships team.

Simply based on times, Dressel was not that far off the pace of a man who has been among the top sprinters in the world so far in 2023, fellow Florida Gator Josh Liendo. It was less than two months ago that Liendo became the second-fastest man ever in the 100-yard free, his time of 40.28 less than four tenths off Dressel’s all-time best of 39.90, and the fifth-fastest man ever in the 100-meter fly in 50.36. Liendo ranks first in the world in the 100 fly, second in the 50 free and fifth in the 100 free.

But in Atlanta, Dressel was just six tenths behind Liendo in the 100 fly and less than a tenth off in the 50 free, and Liendo is in the midst of the same Florida training regime as Dressel. Well, maybe not exactly considering that Liendo just went through a grueling college season and peaking for three major meets in quick succession (SEC Championships, NCAA Championships and Canadian Trials), but Dressel had to build up from a long layoff, physically and mentally overwhelming in a much different way.

And remember, Dressel has been in this position before. During his senior year in high school, he became the first under-18 swimmer to crack 19 seconds in the 50-yard free, and then he took a hiatus from training for several months. When he did return, it was a slow buildup back to his best, but he won an NCAA title as a freshman and qualified for his first Olympics just over one year after that.

Simply, there’s no reason that his times from Atlanta should set off alarm bells. The guess here is that Dressel will find his way onto the U.S. team for Worlds but not with his usual full program. Instead, maybe he secures spots in one or two individual events plus relays. He has the ability to overcome his limited training by relying on his strength on starts and turns and on his racing instincts primed through so many years in high-pressure situations.

His challenges in a return to international racing will be numerous (think David Popovici and Kristof Milak), but one step at a time here. In terms of getting to Nationals and contending for a spot in Fukuoka, there is no reason that Dressel’s first stab at racing was a setback.

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1 year ago

Again and again the media speculates and makes bets on people’s abilities, expertise and ‘super power’. The man just came out of a tough year battling mental fatigue and possibly mental illness and He doesn’t need to read articles such as this trying to dissect his “okay performance ” and if he will be ready for Worlds or whatever else. I hope he takes his sweet time, enjoys the process and stays focused on keeping himself physically and mentally healthy. He’s already one of the best sprinters of all time, nothing more to prove. Stay healthy caeleb🙏

1 year ago
Reply to  SwimNeee


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