Caeleb Dressel ready to take on the role of Nathan Adrian in Paris

Caeleb Dressel ready to take on the role of Nathan Adrian at the third Olympic Games

After Nathan Adrian After winning Olympic gold in the men’s 100 freestyle at the 2012 London Games, breaking a 20-year American drought, Adrian became the standard-bearer that all young American sprinters looked up to. Adrian then continued to make international teams, win medals and anchor U.S. relay teams for seven years, during which time he eagerly welcomed younger competitors at the national level who tried to beat him.

Caeleb Dressel remembers the first time he encountered Adrian, when the two were competing in Orlando in early 2016. Dressel was 19 years old, Adrian 27.

“The first time I met Adrian, I honestly thought I would hate him. I had never actually met him. I knew I would be racing with him at Trials, and he was so nice. I thought, ‘Oh, this is what USA Swimming is about,’” Dressel said. “I think it just shows the younger generation what they are capable of.”

Now Dressel is 27 and heading to his third Olympic Games, just like Adrian was in 2016. His week has been successful by most accounts, returning to international caliber times after an eight-month break from training and relatively slow times in his initial return. for competing in last year’s US Nationals. Dressel won’t hit his American records in every event, but he won’t need those kinds of times to compete for an individual medal in the 50 free (and if he qualifies Saturday night, the 100 butterfly) and help the American men win gold to secure. in the 400 free and medley relays.

Caeleb Dressel — Photo courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In the 100 free, Dressel was able to repeat the heroics of Chris Guiliano And Jack Alexey, a pair of swimmers who have shaken up the sprint rankings over the past two years, with Alexy now second all-time among Americans and Guiliano third. Two days later, Dressel showed he wasn’t that fast when he defeated Guiliano for the splash-and-dash win.

Swimming has come full circle, and now Dressel is filling a role strikingly similar to Adrian’s eight years ago.

“Early in my career it was: ‘How long can I be dominant?’ And that’s still a small part of my thinking, but I think it’s changing a little bit towards, ‘What can I show this younger generation with Jack and Chris?’” Dressel said. “For me that was Nathan. I have to see it Show (Ervin) in Rio. I might be at the age where it might show these younger boys something they didn’t think they could do.”

In the 100 free preliminaries Tuesday, when Dressel broke 48 for the first time in two years, he was two lanes away when Alexy Dressel’s 2019 American record of 46.96 scared before coming in at 47.08. Dressel knew he would have to deal with Alexy in the coming rounds, which would normally have fueled his competitive instincts, but instead he felt pride.

“When I saw Jack go to 47.0, I didn’t want to lose, but it made me happy. I know how exciting it is to go 47-low. Not many people have done that,” Dressel said. “I’m not saying I’m giving up and trying to get third place and not make individual events. It’s different, and I think I’m in a similar mindset to what Nathan felt.

For Alexy, Guiliano, Hunter Armstrong and other younger swimmers who have claimed a spot on the U.S. team heading to Paris, it was a thrill to become Dressel’s teammate and receive his warm welcome into the elite ranks.

“I have looked up to Caeleb since he first joined the team in 2016 and he has been leading the U.S. men’s sprint for years,” said Alexy. “It is very special to be on the same Olympic team with someone I have looked up to all these years, and I am really looking forward to racing with him in the relay in Paris.”

Armstrong is on his second Olympic team and he remembers the first time he met Dressel as a 20-year-old rookie in 2021. After swimming only the backstroke, he will compete in the men’s 400 free relay in Paris after finishing fourth was in the 100 freestyle. this week.

“I think every sprinter in the United States, and maybe even the world, has looked up to Caeleb,” Armstrong said. “When I made my debut in ’21, we were backstage preparing for the big reveal, and he walked past me. I’m like, ‘Hey, Caeleb.’ He says, “Hey, Hunter, nice swim.”

“And I had a little fanboy moment where I was like, ‘Caeleb Dressel knows who I am.’ It is incredibly special to share a relay with such a legend.”