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FINA Male Swimmer 2017: Caeleb Dressel (USA)

 

Dressel, who lives with his family in Green Cove Springs, Florida, is also the first US male swimmer to win at least three individual titles since Ryan Lochte’s victories in 2011. Lochte is a former University of Florida Gator who was also coached by Gregg Troy during those Shanghai World Championships.

Dressel became the fourth male swimmer to win both the 50m and 100m freestyle at a single Worlds after Alexander Popov (RUS), Anthony Ervin (USA) and Cesar Cielo (BRA). His 50m freestyle title ended a 10-year drought for the USA, the first since Benjamin Wildman-Tobriner’s victory in Melbourne.

In the 100m butterfly, one of his three victories on July 30, he swam within 0.04 seconds of Phelps’s world record. “I think being that close, it feels like I can almost taste it. I don’t consider myself a flyer, and I always say that as a joke but I guess not. I will be practising a lot more fly. It’s humbling to be that close to the world records, and it’s nice to stay hungry. I’m excited for the future,” Dressel said.

At his last press conference in Budapest, when asked about his performance, Dressel underplayed his accomplishments: “I’m pretty tired, but it’s been a good season, a good year, and it was great to put together a seven-day meet. It’s a really nice feeling,” he said. “There’s a lot more that goes into this than just the seven days that people see, so I’m very happy to be done.”

He was asked how long it might take to sink in: “I’m not sure, that’s a good question, but I really don’t know.”

Dressel was also asked if he considers himself one of the faces of USA Swimming, along with Katie Ledecky. He replied: “There are a lot of up-and-coming stars in USA swimming, and I don’t think it can be put on one individual. There’s a lot of young guys, and I don’t think it can be put all on me. There’s plenty of talent in USA swimming to go around.”

Just as it was for Phelps when he pulled off his remarkable feat in Melbourne in 2007, Budapest will surely be remembered as Dressel’s coming-out party, no matter what happens in the rest of his career.

 

Who are the members of the Dressel family?

My father Michael is a veterinarian who swam for a club team while studying veterinary medicine at the University of Delaware. My mom Christina always plenty busy raising four children. My older brother Tyler, 25, is a really good skateboarder but never took to swimming like me and my sisters. Kaitlyn, 23, swam at Florida State University, while my younger sister Sherridon, 19, is one of my team-mates at the University of Florida. Both of my sisters have qualified and swam at the NCAA Championships.

 

What is your favourite activity outside of swimming?

It’s always changing and I always like to stay busy. Anything I can get my hands on outside of the pool I usually enjoy. I used to hunt when I was younger, sometimes for deer and turkey, but most of the time I was shooting at squirrels until my Dad told me to stop. Fishing and shrimping with my Dad is my “go to”. Cast netting is my real forte. I recently got a new dirt bike, it’s called a Dual Sport street bike which is not only the do-it-all bike of the motorcycle world and it’s street legal. It’s my mode of transportation and it’s great to have on campus. Before practice I was installing a new exhaust to make it sound beefier and more powerful. I have gotten “the talk” about being careful from both of my parents and my swim coach about being a safe rider. I always wear a helmet and I have gloves and I wear all the safety stuff.

 

Who is the most influential person in your life?

There can’t be any doubt that it’s Mom and Dad. I also regard my geometry teacher Claire McCool at Clay High School. She was someone who made a difference in my life and always believed in me.

 

When did you start swimming?

I was four years old and I am pretty sure it was just a plan to keep me out of my mom’s hair. Although it was always a lot of fun swimming on a summer league swim team, I have always been a baby when it comes to swimming in cold water. There was a time when I was playing soccer and swimming as well. I started to hate swimming when I was about 10-11 years old, and I was playing a lot of soccer in the beginning of my teenage years until I finally quit soccer. But there was something about the sport that I could not walk away from. I truly enjoyed being on a swim team with my friends and I have always enjoyed my team-mates. I really enjoy going to practice.

 

What is one of the best swimming moments in swimming that you can recall?

It was watching my Florida team-mate and friend Mark Szaranek tie for first with Will Licon of Texas in the 200 IM at the 2017 NCAA Championships. Mark swims for Scotland and he was the first Gator on the top of the podium during our careers at Florida.

 

What do you love about swimming?

I love the fact that you can always learn something from swimming. Swimming is a little bit of a mystery. You have to respect the sport, and sometimes the challenge is piecing everything together. There will always be something new, different and exciting. Swimming is so busy for me, that I never get bored. There are fun things to find out about each stroke. There is always something different that you can try, always new things to figure out. I remember when I was 12 years old, racing in the 200m individual medley in the championship finals. I didn’t have a very good breaststroke leg and was surprised I qualified as one of the top 8. My coach was sure I could win the race and I was just as sure that he was out of his mind. As I stood on the blocks I recalled the race plan that he and I discussed before the race, and I wasn’t as nervous as before. I actually out-split everyone in the breaststroke and won the race with a best time. That race was probably the first time that everything came together. That race helped me build confidence and I have tried never to doubt myself ever since.

 

Do you have a worst swimming moment that you can recall?

Of course, everyone has a bad race or a bad meet and I’m just like every other swimmer. But even in the worst moment there is always something you can learn from it. You have to take the bad with the good and there is always a positive. If you have a bad race but you learn something from it, then you can come out with a positive, 

 

Is there anything that you fear about swimming?

I sometimes think it would be terrible to plateau. A fear of never getting better. It’s not about whether I am swimming faster, but I worry that I might become stale, no longer learning anything from it and not gain anything from my experience. 

 

There’s a rumour that you have a lucky pair of goggles. Is there anything to this?

I have raced in lots of different goggles, so it’s not a superstition. But I do have a favourite pair and I take very good care of them. I have had these goggles for four years now and they look brand-new. During my freshman year I opened the case to my new goggles and out fell a piece of paper that included care instructions. Don’t ask me why, but I decided to read and follow the instructions that said, ‘always rinse them in cold water after every use’. I also read the shampoo bottles too.

 

What can you tell us about your relationship with Coach Troy?

Is he listening? Just kidding. Honestly, we work really well together and that’s why I ended up at Florida. He and I communicate a lot. Any time there is something that is caught up in my head I can reach out to Coach Troy. When I am having problems I can always go to talk to him and everything works out fine. He knows how I work and what makes me tick.

 

What was it like to be a part of the US team in Rio?

The Rio Olympics were my first international event. It was just spectacular to be part of the US team and to represent the flag and my country. It was a tremendous experience for me. I have great memories of the Olympics and my team-mates.

 

What was your toughest race in Budapest?

It was the 50m fly, my first individual event. I was a bit nervous until the moment I just had to swim. I just needed to dive in and make it a race.

 

How did you deal with fatigue in Budapest?

Because I had a full slate of events, we expected to be tired and that’s what we were training for. Coach Troy and I did not expect it to be easy. We were fully prepared for the schedule ahead of us. I don’t think anything was overwhelming or overbearing.

 

Did any of your times or victories surprise you?

I think that the majority of them did. It was nice to look up on scoreboard and see some of those times and the number “1” next to them. It comes with the sport, you are not guaranteed anything and it’s all right to be surprised by a good time here and there.

 

What was your happiest moment in Budapest?

No doubt about it, when the meet was over, honestly. I was really tired. I enjoyed my time there and I got to take everything in but when the relay ended it was such a relief for me. I got to relax with my team-mates and enjoy the moment.

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