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Caeleb Dressel shatters 50 freestyle record, goes sub-18 twice (video)

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Caeleb Dressel staked his claim as the world’s greatest swimmer last year. He’s off to a pretty good start this year, too.

Dressel, who matched Michael Phelps‘ record with seven gold medals at the 2017 World Championships, shattered his own NCAA and American records in the 50-yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships on Thursday night.

The University of Florida senior became the first swimmer to break 18 seconds in the event, which is contested in a 25-yard pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for major international meets like the Olympics.

Dressel came into Thursday with the 11 fastest times ever, holding the NCAA and American record with an 18.20.

Then Dressel clocked 18.11 in Thursday morning’s preliminary session.

In the evening finals, he led off UF’s 200-yard free relay team with a 17.81, igniting a roar from the crowd at the University of Minnesota. About 50 minutes later, Dressel clocked 17.63 to win the individual 50 free, hitting his pre-meet goal time.

“There needs to be a fine line between goal setting and laughter,” said Dressel, who kneels, says a prayer and talks to himself before races to stay calm. “I don’t think you should sell yourself short. This meet, I think 17.6 was a perfect swim. There’s still room to improve. I think both of my breakouts were still pretty bad.”

In eight hours, Dressel chopped more than a half-second off the world record in the shortest race in swimming. He won the 50 free final by 1.01 seconds over Olympic 4x100m free relay teammate Ryan Held.

In comparison, the difference between NCAA women’s 50 free winner Simone Manuel and 11th place was .96.

Dressel is .84 faster than anyone else in history in this event (second place is 50m and 100m freestyle world-record holder Cesar Cielo of Brazil from his college days at Auburn), granted it’s not swum on the major international level.

Still, in comparison, the gap between the women’s 50-yard free record holder (Manuel) and the No. 63 woman on the all-time list is also .84, according to USA Swimming’s online records.

“I know probably everybody in the world of swimming expected 17.9, but I don’t really care about other people’s expectations,” Dressel said. “I want to set my own and put my own pressure on myself. I actually deleted all my social media, so I don’t know what people are saying. I don’t have a clue. It’s kind of nice actually, you guys should try it. I don’t have any apps on my phone. It’s very freeing.”

Dressel’s time drops in the last year have been astounding. At 2017 Worlds, he lowered his 100m free personal best from 47.91 (Rio Olympics) to 47.17. In the 100m butterfly, from 50.87 (2017 Nationals) to 49.86. In the 50m freestyle, from 21.53 (2017 Nationals) to 21.15.

“It’s not a shock. He’s incredible,” Lochte, who was in attendance in Minnesota, said on Thursday night, according to FloridaGators.com. “He is the next ‘you name it.’ He is the face of swimming from now on.”

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Caeleb Dressel, Sarah Sjöström take FINA Swimmer of the Year honors

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One more honor for Caeleb Dressel to cap a breakout 2017 — FINA Male Swimmer of the Year.

Sweden’s Sarah Sjöström won Female Swimmer of the Year.

Dressel won seven gold medals at the world championships in July, matching Michael Phelps‘ record, though Dressel had the benefit of mixed-gender relays that weren’t around in the Phelps era.

Dressel’s performances at worlds also led him to win USA Swimming’s Male Athlete of the Year award and be a finalist for the U.S. Olympic Committee’s annual male athlete honor. Kyle Snyder won the latter.

The 21-year-old Dressel took the FINA honor via the swimming body’s points formula that could use a little more detailed explanation.

The other top swimmers this year were Brit Adam Peaty (world’s top breaststroker), Chinese Sun Yang (world champion in 200m and 400m freestyles) and American Chase Kalisz (swept individual medleys at worlds).

Dressel joins Ryan LochteMissy FranklinKatie Ledecky, Phelps and Jordan Wilimovsky (open water) as the only Americans to take home FINA Swimmer of the Year honors. They have been handed out since 2010.

Sjöström, 24, won the 50m and 100m butterflies and the 50m freestyle at worlds. She also broke the 50m and 100m free world records.

Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, who swept the individual medleys at worlds for a third straight time, won the last three FINA Female Swimmer of the Year awards.

Katie Ledecky, who had her best medal haul at a major meet ever (five golds, one silver), won the FINA award once in 2013. Ledecky would score higher in FINA’s rankings system if she competed in World Cups, which the majority of the top Americans skip.

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Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel lead Golden Goggles winners

Katie Ledecky, Caeleb Dressel
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel won athlete of the year honors at the Golden Goggle Awards on Sunday night, recognizing the year’s top performances by USA Swimming.

Ledecky won for the fifth consecutive year. She received her trophy from a couple of bearded retirees: Michael Phelps and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

Ledecky earned five gold medals and a silver at the world championships in Budapest in July.

“My very first goal was to make friends in the sport,” Ledecky said. “I want to thank all my friends in this room for being there for me and making me love this sport.”

Bryant tried to egg Phelps into reconsidering retirement. But Phelps was having none of it.

“I’d rather be sitting in the stands during the next one watching all of you,” he told the audience.

Dressel joined Phelps as the only swimmers to win seven golds at a single world championships in Budapest. It was the first time in 11 years that either Phelps or Ryan Lochte didn’t win male athlete of the year at the event.

“I want to continue to learn and progress,” Dressel said.

Dressel also won for male race of the year for his world 100m butterfly title, missing Phelps’ world record from 2009 by .04.

Lilly King won for female race of the year, notching a 100m breaststroke world record and finishing nearly a second ahead of teammate Katie Meili. It was King’s first world title and first world record.

Mallory Comerford earned the trophy for breakout performer. In her international long-course debut, she earned five relay gold medals.

The perseverance award went to 32-year-old backstroker Matt Grevers.

The 2012 Olympic 100m back champion just missed earning a spot at the Rio Games with a third-place finish at trials. He bounced back in a big way, winning four medals in Budapest, including silver in the 100m back and two relay golds.

Greg Meehan of Stanford, who guided the U.S. women’s team in Budapest, was honored as coach of the year.

The women’s 4x100m medley relay earned relay performance of the year.

Kathleen Baker, King, Kelsi Worrell and Simone Manuel set a world record of 3 minutes, 51.55 seconds while finishing nearly two seconds ahead of second-place Russia.

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