By By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Saturday, July 29, 2017
BUDAPEST – With the exception of one little hiccup in the 50m butterfly, the United States’ Caeleb Dressel has been destroying the competition this week at the 17th FINA World Championships, and is already having his name mentioned in the same breath as legends Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz.
The 20-year-old Dressel -- competing in his first World Championships -- won his fourth, fifth and sixth gold medal of the meet Saturday, each in impressive fashion.
He is the first swimmer to win three gold medals in one night at a World Championships.
“I’m happy it’s over,” Dressel said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow night. We’ve got 24 hours until my next swim, so I’m very happy about tonight, and happy it’s done. I’m going to get some dinner, maybe let it sink in for a bit, and then get ready for tomorrow.”
First, Dressel set the American record in the 50m free in 21.15. It was the second time in as many days that he broke the American record in that event after turning in a time of 21.29 in Friday’s semifinals. With tonight’s performance, he became the third-fastest swimmer of all time in the men’s 50m free.
Then he won the 100m butterfly in 49.86, becoming the second-fastest swimmer of all time in that event behind Phelps, who still holds – barely, by four-hundredths of a second – the world record in 49.82.
Besides Phelps and Dressel, only one other swimmer in history has broken the 50-second barrier in the 100 fly – Milorad Cavic, at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, at the height of the high-performance, full-body, polyurethane suit era.
Dressel is the first American since Phelps in 2011 to win the 100m butterfly at Worlds.
He then capped the night by helping set a world record in the mixed 400m free relay, along with teammates Nathan Adrian, Mallory Comerford and Simone Manuel.
Their time was 3:19.60, about three and a half seconds faster than the former world record of 3:23.05, set by the United States at Worlds in 2015.
“I don’t think there are any accidents in this sport,” Dressel said. “I had three swims within an hour and a half of each other, and I had to be on my ‘A’ game for all of them. It wasn’t an accident what happened tonight. I worked well with (coach Gregg) Troy, and we were ready for it. It was very hard – definitely wasn’t easy – but I’m just glad (coach)Troy has a plan for me in everything we do.”
In addition to the events he won Saturday, Dressel has also taken gold this week in the 100m free, the men’s 400m free relay and the mixed 400m medley relay. He set the American record in the 100m free twice – once leading off the men’s 400m free relay, and once in the finals of that event. And even though he did not win a medal in the 50m fly, he set the American record in semifinals in 22.76.
Dressel will likely swim in the finals of the American men’s 400m medley relay, and stands on the threshold of winning his seventh World Championship gold medal.
The only other swimmer to win seven gold medals in a single World Championships was Michael Phelps in 2007.
The only other swimmer besides Phelps to win seven gold medals in a long-course international championship was Mark Spitz, at the 1972 Olympic Games.
“I have mixed relays helping me out, so I think it’s a bit different situation,” Dressel said. “I wouldn’t put myself with that group yet. I’m still getting my feet wet in international swimming, but it would be an honor, even with the help of mixed relays, and I’m just having fun doing it. We’ve got to focus on tomorrow. I’m not counting medals at this point. I’m just trying to do my best on that relay tomorrow.”
Mixed 400m Free Relay
The mixed 400m free relay made its World Championships debut in 2015. The United States has won it both times, setting the world record in each race.
Tonight’s line-up for the U.S. featured the gold and silver medalist in the men’s 100m free (Dressel and Adrian), and the gold medalist in the women’s 100m free (Manuel). Comerford finished fourth in the women’s 100m free.
“I know we had a lot of confidence going in,” Manuel said. “We have some of the best sprinters in the world, and we’ve just been having a great meet, and so we’re just keeping the ball rolling, swimming fast.”
The U.S. has won all but one relay so far this week, finishing with a bronze in the men’s 800m free relay.
“We knew what we needed to go out there and do, and that was win a gold medal,” Adrian said. “We’ve been doing great on the relays so far. We’ve been doing great as a country so far. We do everything we can to make sure Team USA ends up on top of the medal stands.”
Women’s 800m Free
Katie Ledecky capped her meet Saturday with a gold in the women’s 800m free in 8:12.68, the tenth-fastest performance of all time in this event.
Ledecky was quietly dominant this week, winning gold in five events – the 400m free, the 800m free, the 1500m free, the 400m free relay and the 800m free relay. She also won silver in the 200m free for six medals overall.
Her win in the 800 Saturday was her 14th career World Championships gold, the most all-time among women. This is her third straight World Championship title in this event, and her sixth straight in major international competition, counting the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, and the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.
Afterward, Ledecky said her goal this meet was just to put together the best races she could. While she’s not walking away from the season completely satisfied, she’s looking forward to what the future will bring.
“I always wish there was more,” Ledecky said. “I’ve never walked away from a season completely satisfied, even last year. You’re just always looking and moving forward.
“I was just going through a lot of transitions and changes this year, and knowing I’ve gone through that this year, now I can really take what I’ve learned and apply it moving forward. If that was my bad year for the next four years, then the next couple of years are going to be pretty exciting.”
Leah Smith joined Ledecky on the medal stand with a bronze in the 800m free in 8:17.22. It was Smith’s third medal of the meet after finishing second behind Ledecky in the 400m free and winning gold in the 800m free relay. She will close the meet with the 400m IM on Sunday.
Women’s 200m Back
Kathleen Baker won bronze in the women’s 200m backstroke in 2:06.48. It was the first major international competition in which she has swum this event. Earlier this week, Baker won silver in the 100m back.
Baker’s teammate Regan Smith, who at 15 is the youngest member of the U.S. team competing in Budapest, finished eighth in 2:07.42. In last night’s semifinals, Smith set the world junior record in 2:07.19.
Women’s 50m Fly
Kelsi Worrell missed out on a medal by about a tenth of a second in the women’s 50m butterfly, but set an American record, finishing fourth in 25.48. Dara Torres set the former mark at 25.50 at Nationals in 2009.
Worrell has won gold in the 400m free relay, mixed 400m medley, and bronze in the 100m butterfly this week, and will likely compete in the 400m medley relay tomorrow night.
The top 8 swimmers from each of Saturday’s semifinals will compete in tomorrow night’s finals. Here’s how American swimmers fared in tonight’s semifinals:
- Lilly King, 1st, women’s 50m breaststroke, 29.60, American Record
- Katie Meili, 3rd, women’s 50m breaststroke, 30.12
- Simone Manuel, 3rd, women’s 50m freestyle, 24.12
- Abbey Weitzeil, 15th, women’s 50m free, 24.80
- Matt Grevers, 3rd, men’s 50m back, 24.65
- Justin Ress, 5th, men’s 50m back, 24.70
For more expert analysis and insight from the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, catch Deck Pass Live, right here on usaswimming.org. The show begins approximately one hour after finals. Also, follow our coverage from Hungary on Facebook and Twitter. #DeckPassLive.