Katinka Hosszu

For Caeleb Dressel, eight gold medals in play after winning the one that got away

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When Caeleb Dressel won seven gold medals at the 2017 World Championships, the outlier was the 50m butterfly, where he was fourth. Dressel, after a difficult 2018 in and out of the pool, won the 50m fly on Monday, putting a record eight gold medals in play this week.

Dressel dominated in the non-Olympic event 22.35 seconds, the second-fastest time in history and an American record. The margin of victory was vast for a one-length race — .35 of a second.

“I’m not here to count medals,” Dressel said. “I’m going to wake up tomorrow and forget about this.”

Dressel now has two golds in his first two events after leading off the U.S. 4x100m freestyle on Sunday in Gwangju, South Korea. He is a defending world champion in six remaining events — 50m and 100m freestyle (perhaps his biggest question mark against Rio gold medalist Kyle Chalmers) and the 100m butterfly, plus three more relays. He could be on the 4x200m free, too, giving him nine events.

Two of those relays are mixed-gender events that weren’t on the program when Michael Phelps set records of seven golds at the 2007 World Championships and eight at the 2008 Olympics. Phelps has said he’s not a fan of mixed-gender relays, but in 2017 he refused to say that Dressel’s feat was anything less than his own.

“You can’t take anything away from winning seven gold medals, right?” Phelps said then. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a relay or an individual event.”

If Dressel had it his way, the tattooed Floridian would have zero fanfare accompanying his recent rise.

“Being in the spotlight is something that’s important in the sport. It is inevitable,” Dressel said last week. “But if it were up to me, it would just be me, [coach Gregg Troy], no media stuff and just trying to go best times, really.”

In 2014, he quit the sport for five months under the expectation of being the nation’s top prep swimmer. He ultimately decided to join the University of Florida team and rewrote the NCAA record book before his breakout 2017 Worlds. Turning pro in 2018 brought more off-deck commitments, and Dressel struggled in last summer’s two major meets, winning two of seven individual events.

“It might send you to those dark places every once in a while, but it will test yourself,” said Dressel, who had perhaps the most pressure-packed role of any U.S. swimmer in Rio, leading off the 4x100m free final in his very first Olympic splash. “I like that from the sport.”

Dressel keeps grounded with interests outside the sport. He plays the drums, has one chapter left of his third time reading “Zen in the Martial Arts” and plans to go on a cruise with other swimmers later this summer.

“I really only have one little block of vacation time a year, so I like to spend it with my boys,” he said. “During the meet, it can be tricky, you can get caught up in your thoughts. I try to hang out with people when I can. I don’t want to be alone too much.”

SWIM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results

Dressel gets Tuesday off. The headliner will be Katie Ledecky, slated for the 1500m freestyle final, followed about an hour later by a 200m free semifinal. Ledecky was relegated to silver in Sunday’s 400m free by 18-year-old Australian Ariarne Titmus, who is also in the 200m.

Also Tuesday, Lilly King will take on Russian rival Yuliya Efimova for the first of three events this week in the 100m breast, King’s trademark distance. The men’s 100m backstroke final features the last two Olympic champions, Americans Ryan Murphy and Matt Grevers.

In other events Monday, Brit Adam Peaty three-peated in the 100m breast, clocking 57.14 seconds one day after lowering his world record to 56.88 in the semifinals. Peaty, the 24-year-old Olympic champion, owns the 17 fastest times in history and is the only man to break not only 57 seconds, but also 58 seconds.

Peaty led a British one-two with James Wilby, who was 1.32 seconds back. China’s Yan Zibei grabbed bronze, while American Andrew Wilson was sixth.

Katinka Hosszu became the first woman to win four straight world titles in one event, taking the 200m individual medley in 2:07.53. Ye Shiwen, the eye-popping 2012 Olympic champion at age 16, took silver, 1.07 seconds behind. American Melanie Margalis was fourth, .21 behind bronze medalist Sydney Pickrem of Canada.

Canadian Maggie MacNeil, a rising Michigan sophomore, upset world-record holder Sarah Sjostrom in the 100m butterfly. MacNeil stormed past Sjostrom in the last 25 meters to win in 55.83, topping Sjostrom by .39. American Kelsi Dalhia was sixth, two years after taking bronze.

“[MacNeil] told me straight after, the first thing she said was, I look up to you very much,” Sjostrom said, who earned her first world title in 2009 at age 15.

Sjostrom owns the 10 fastest times in history and won the last three world titles and the Rio Olympics. MacNeil chopped .69 off her personal best, jumping from the 10th-fastest woman in history to No. 2 ahead of 2012 Olympic champion Dana Vollmer.

“I can’t really hold the last 50,” Sjostrom said. “I’m actually exhausted in the end. I’m absolutely surprised I went 56.22 with how I finished.”

NBC Olympic researchers Alex Azzi and Megan Soisson contributed to this report from Gwangju.

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Lilly King completes sweep of Yuliya Efimova at FINA Champions Series

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Lilly King is the fastest breaststroker going into next month’s world championships. She can let her swimming do the talking when it comes to Russian rival Yuliya Efimova.

King beat Efimova three times in two nights at the FINA Champions Series stop in Indianapolis, wrapping up her breaststroke sweep in the 100m on Saturday. It marked their first races against each other since the 2017 World Championships.

King clocked 1:05.13 to hold off Efimova by .38 in the four-swimmer race.

King lowered her own fastest time in the world this year. She now owns the fastest times of 2019 in the 50m, 100m and 200m breasts among swimmers going to worlds. (The only woman with a faster breaststroke is training partner Annie Lazor, who did not qualify for worlds last summer, in the 200m.)

King and Efimova traded victories (and finger wags) at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds, with Efimova excelling at 200m. Now it appears King, who at 22 is five years younger than Efimova, is really coming into her own ahead of worlds in South Korea in late July.

Full FINA Champions Series results are here.

In other events Saturday, Jacob Pebley scored a rare win over Olympic champion Ryan Murphy in the 200m backstroke. Pebley, who took second to Murphy at nationals in 2016, 2017 and 2018, touched in 1:56.35 and .16 ahead of Murphy. Russian Yevgeny Rylov, who was not in Indianapolis, remains far and away the fastest in the world this year at 1:54.00.

Hali Flickinger swam the world’s fastest 200m butterfly of 2019, a 2:06.40 to crush Katinka Hosszu by 1.47 seconds. Flickinger was seventh in Rio and missed the 2017 World final, but she was second-fastest in the world in 2018 and appears destined for her first individual medal next month.

The U.S. last put a woman on the Olympic 200m fly podium in 2000 (Misty Hyman, gold) and last had a world champion in 1991 (Summer Sanders), its longest droughts for any pool event in both respects.

Hosszu was later scared in one of her trademark events, the 200m individual medley. The Olympic and world champion made up a 1.29-second deficit to Canadian Sydney Pickrem in the last 50 meters of freestyle. Hosszu’s time, 2:08.50, is the world’s fastest in 2019. Hosszu will try to sweep the IMs at a fourth straight worlds next month.

Dane Pernille Blume won a loaded women’s 50m freestyle. The Rio Olympic champion finished in 24.08, topping world-record holder Sarah Sjöström (24.18) and London Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo (24.56). Sjöström remains fastest in the world this year with a 23.91.

Russian Anton Chupkov prevailed in a rematch of the 2016 Olympic medalists in the 200m breast. He clocked 2:08.98, which was 1.04 seconds faster than surprise Rio gold medalist Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan and 2.81 better than Josh Prenot. Chupkov has been the fastest in the world this year and last year.

The Tyr Pro Swim Series resumes with the last meet before worlds in two weeks in Clovis, Calif.

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Ryan Murphy leads as U.S. cleans up at swimming short course worlds

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U.S. Olympic swimmers Ryan MurphyBlake Pieroni and Olivia Smoliga won individual short-course world titles in Hangzhou, China, on Wednesday.

The U.S. also broke world records in winning two relays — the women’s 4x50m medley and mixed-gender 4x50m freestyle.

Murphy, who swept the Rio backstrokes, led off by edging Chinese rival Xu Jiayu by .03 in the 100m back. Xu had relegated Murphy to bronze at the 2017 World Championships in the standard Olympic-size pool.

Smoliga upset Olympic champion Katinka Hosszu and world-record holder Kathleen Baker in the women’s 100m back, touching .07 ahead of the Hungarian superstar. Baker was fifth.

Pieroni, a veteran U.S. freestyler on relays, earned his first individual global gold medal. Pieroni won the 200m free despite being the slowest qualifier into the final. He beat Lithuanian Danas Rapsys by .29. Olympic and 2017 World champion Sun Yang of China is not racing short-course worlds.

Short-course worlds are held in even-numbered years in a 25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used at the Olympics. U.S. Olympic champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Lilly King are among those not competing this week.

WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

In other events Wednesday, triple Rio Olympic champion Hosszu overtook American Kelsi Dahlia in the final strokes of the 200m butterfly, winning by .13. Dahlia lowered her American record by 1.16 seconds.

South African Cameron van der Burgh turned back the clock to win the 100m breaststroke from lane seven by .07. Van der Burgh, 30, won the 2012 Olympic 100m breast but ceded to Brit Adam Peaty in the last Olympic cycle. Peaty is not at short-course worlds.

Worlds continue Thursday, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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