Caeleb Dressel resurfaces at swimming trials after miserable post-Olympic months


When Caeleb Dressel landed in the U.S. after the Olympics last summer, his initial reflection wasn’t on any of the history that he made in Tokyo. The conviction was that he didn’t hit goal times that he had set for himself in his races.

“That’s not fair to myself,” Dressel told Graham Bensinger two weeks ago at a broadcast shoot at his North Central Florida home. “I just won five gold medals on the biggest world stage in sports, and I’m thinking about how I wish I would have gone faster in certain events.”

So began a break between major competition that Dressel, speaking this week at his first big meet since Tokyo, called “a very interesting year.” At least at times.

Dressel has so far delivered at the world championships trials in Greensboro, N.C., winning the 100m freestyle (Tuesday) and 50m and 100m butterflies (Wednesday, Thursday) in the fastest times in the world this year. He has one race left, the 50m free on Saturday, to set up a potential eight-event schedule at June’s worlds in Budapest when including relays.

U.S. SWIMMING TRIALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

“The goal this year: be happy,” Dressel said. “I think we’ve got a good grasp on that.”

He didn’t last fall.

Dressel dived right back into competition after the Olympics. He contested the International Swimming League in late August, four weeks after his final splash at an exhausting Games.

Dressel wasn’t expected to race a full ISL season, but he suddenly withdrew In the middle of the third of four regular-season competitions in a three-week stretch, all in Naples, Italy, His team general manager said he “was not feeling well.”

“I felt so lost,” Dressel told Bensinger two weeks ago. “I wanted to get away from the water, but that’s also one of my safe places.

“It was a pretty miserable couple of months.”

Seven years earlier, Dressel burned out from the sport as a prized high school recruit. He took five months off then, at times holed up in his room with the blinds shut, and posted sticky notes on his walls reading, “Swimming doesn’t define me,” his mom said.

The Tokyo Olympic build-up, expectations and accompanying pressure, adding an extra year due to the pandemic postponement, took its toll. He needed a break last fall.

“It was his senior year [of high school] on steroids,” Gregg Troy, Dressel’s coach at the University of Florida and as a pro through Tokyo, told Bensinger. “Usually you’re trying to motivate someone to be better than what they think they can be, and now you’ve got a guy that’s as good or better than anyone, and he never thinks it’s good enough.”

During his time off in October, Dressel shared that he spent 14 hours getting the outline of a waist-to-ankle right leg tattoo, complementing his left arm sleeve. On the drive home, he helped a stranger jump start her car in the middle of the night at a rest stop.

In November, Dressel announced a coaching change. He was staying in Gainesville — he never plans to leave — but amicably left Troy, who was downshifting in his early 70s, for the current UF college team coaches, Anthony Nesty and Steve Jungbluth.

Dressel, after training with a professional group including Ryan Lochte, was back with teenagers who don’t necessarily need an Olympics as motivation.

“I wanted to be able to look at the freshman and sophomore kid next to me [and say], ‘Hey, try this. Good job on that,'” Dressel told Bensinger. “I genuinely feel like an in-water coach, and it’s awesome.”

Dressel said he took about two months off before going “all-in” with Nesty and Jungbluth in mid-December. Still, it wasn’t easy.

His schedule could still be demanding. On one night in December, he gave award acceptance speeches at both the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year and USA Swimming’s Golden Goggles, separated by 25 miles in South Florida.

He wept on Christmas.

“I still hadn’t had my footing too well back into training and feeling like my life was back in order,” he said.

Dressel, like so many, got sick in January. Yet by the end of that month, he recorded personal-best efforts in swim practice and in the weight room. He largely credited the base that he built up working with Troy in the last Olympic cycle, which he expects to help carry him much further in the two years until the Paris Games.

He’s also familiar with Nesty and Jungbluth, who were on the staff when Troy was the UF head coach in Dressel’s college years. Bobby Finke, the Olympic 800m and 1500m free gold medalist, said that Nesty, the 1988 Olympic 100m fly gold medalist for Suriname, has worked a lot with Dressel on his butterfly stroke.

“We’re not rewriting any books here, right?” Dressel said this week. “We’re just, you know, writing maybe a new chapter here and there.”

Dressel has been known to gift his medals to important people in his life. He gave his first individual Olympic gold to Troy. More medals are surely coming in Budapest, and probably Paris and beyond.

His ideal swimming scenario is taking away all the clanging, dangling awards, cameras and competitors and just stroking away like in practice. But there’s also that clock and goal times that keep him hungry.

“That’s what makes me great, but I think that can also be detrimental if I want to have longevity in this sport,” he said of the focus that felled him after Tokyo. “There has to be a balance.”

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

No. 9 Taylor Fritz and No. 12 Frances Tiafoe are the highest-seeded Americans, looking to become the first U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals since Andre Agassi in 2003. Since then, five different American men combined to make the fourth round on eight occasions.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

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