Caeleb Dressel repeated as 100m freestyle world champion, clocking the second-fastest time in history on Thursday.
Dressel earned his third gold in four events so far in Gwangju, South Korea, touching in 46.96 seconds, just .05 off Brazilian Cesar Cielo‘s world record from the 2009 Worlds. Frenchman Alain Bernard also swam 46.94 in 2009, but that time was not recognized because his swimsuit was not approved.
“I know I was just off the world record, but really the goal was just to swim the best race that I could, and if that was the time I got tonight, I was happy,” Dressel said. “I’m going to talk to [coach Gregg] Troy, and I guarantee you the first thing he’s going to say is what we could have done better.”
Dressel prevailed by .12 over Australian Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers, who was absent from Dressel’s 2017 World Championships breakout due to heart surgery.
“I consider him a better 100m freestyler,” Dressel said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA of Chalmers. “I look up to him in that aspect.”
Dressel previously won the 50m butterfly and was part of the victorious U.S. men’s 4x100m free this week. He also earned silver with the mixed-gender 4x100m medley.
Dressel won a Michael Phelps-record-tying seven golds at the 2017 Worlds, albeit two were in mixed-gender relays that weren’t on the program in Phelps’ era. Dressel can still win seven this week if he runs the table from here on out, and possibly eight if he’s added to the 4x200m free relay.
If Dressel is added to that relay, he could swim three events both on Friday night and Saturday night. In all of Phelps’ Olympics, he never swam three times in one session.
In other events Thursday, Katie Ledecky returned from illness to help the U.S. go under the world record in the 4x200m free relay. Problem is, Australia went even faster to win. More on Ledecky and that event here.
American Chase Kalisz took bronze in the 200m individual medley, .64 of a second behind Japanese rival Daiya Seto.
It marked the first time a non-American won the event at an Olympics or worlds since 2001, snapping a streak of 12 straight titles among Phelps (seven), Ryan Lochte (four) and Kalisz (one). Kalisz, who swept the IMs at 2017 Worlds, has the 400m IM later this week.
“This is when I operate at my best, when I’m from a behind position,” Kalisz said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’ll be watching this race a few times next year.”
Hungarian Boglarka Kapas zoomed past Americans Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot in the last 25 meters of the 200m butterfly.
Kapas kept the U.S. from ending a world title drought in the event dating to Summer Sanders‘ gold in 1991. Kapas clocked 2:06.78, slower than silver medalist Flickinger and bronze medalist Drabot’s leading semifinal times, and won by .17.
Australian Matthew Wilson tied the 200m breaststroke world record in the semifinals, clocking 2:06.67, two lanes across from the man whose mark he matched, Japanese Ippei Watanabe. They’ll be in Friday’s final, but Olympic silver medalist Josh Prenot failed to advance.
Olympic and world 100m breaststroke champion Lilly King was absent from the women’s 200m semifinals because of a preliminary heat DQ.
American Olivia Smoliga won the 50m backstroke, which is not an Olympic event. Smoliga, who earned eight golds at the short-course worlds in December, edged Brazilian Etiene Medeiros by .11.
NBC Sports researcher Megan Soisson contributed to this report from Gwangju.
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