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  • Jul

    Day 7 Swimming Worlds: The Caeleb Dressel Show

    (c) 2017 FINA World Championships

    Swimming Worlds Preview
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    At the start of the penultimate evening of swimming at these championships, this week’s narrative had been a story of established superstars dominating on the world stage: Sun Yang, Katie Ledecky, Adam Peaty, Sarah Sjostrom.

    But at every World Championships, new stars emerge and tonight was the coming out party for 20-year-old Floridian Caeleb Dressel. Dressel won two gold medals as part of the relays at the 2016 Rio Olympics and Thursday won his first major individual medal with gold in the 100m freestyle. But that was just a dress rehearsal.

    Saturday night at Danube Arena, Dressel sprinted to the world title in the 50m freestyle before coming back to the pool deck just 30 minutes later to compete in the 100m butterfly as the top qualifier from the semifinals.

    With the pressure on, Dressel swam a scintillating 49.86, just .04 off Michael Phelps’ world record, to win his second gold of the night. Surprising second was Hungary’s Kristof Milak, who set a world junior record in the process, while Olympic champion Joseph Schooling of Singapore and Britain’s James Guy tied for bronze.

    (c) 2017 FINA World Championships

    Dressel wasn’t done. Less than an hour later he came back out for the 4x100m mixed freestyle relay swimming the opening leg alongside world runner-up Nathan Adrian, women’s 100m champ Simone Manuel and Mallory Comerford to crush the world record set by Manuel, Adrian, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte two years ago.

    The triple gold medal performance on one night is a first at the World Championships and brings up recollections of a Phelps-type performance. For a kid who had never been to Europe before, Dressel left quite a mark on his first trip.

    But there were other highlights on the night beyond Dressel’s heroics. Ledecky won the 800m in relatively convincing fashion, leaving her silver in the 200m as the only blemish on her six medal performance here in Budapest – with five golds overall. Sjostrom won the 50m butterfly to start the night and then came back an hour later to set the world record in the 50m freestyle by .06, lowering it to 23.67 in the semifinals.

    (c) 2017 FINA World Championships

    And perhaps the most exciting race of the night from start to finish was the women’s 200m backstroke. Katinka Hosszu led early – to the delight of the crowd – before American Kathleen Baker took over during the middle portion. But on the final length, Australian Emily Seebohm, the 2015 world champion who surprisingly didn’t qualify for the Olympic final last year, came back to pass both Baker and Hosszu. The Hungarian finished with silver, Baker with bronze.

    It’s hard to believe but it took seven days of swimming competition for the Australians to win their first gold medal in the pool with Seebohm’s triumph. After a decade of Olympic struggles, it’s a legitimate question to ask if countries like China and Russia have surpassed Australia as top powers in our sport behind America. One thing is for sure, if the U.S. keeps producing new stars the likes of Caeleb Dressel, no one will be touching the U.S. as the sports premier power anytime soon.

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