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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