This was the year Caeleb Dressel was expected to break out as the leader of the U.S. men’s swim team.
If the early returns at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics are any indication, he’s living up to those expectations. On Sunday, he won gold in the men’s 4×100-meter freestyle relay. On Wednesday night in the U.S., he claimed his first individual gold in style, winning the 100 freestyle in an Olympic-record time of 47.02 seconds.
Dressel now has four career Olympic golds, but his win in the 100 freestyle, by 0.06 seconds over Australian rival Kyle Chalmers, meant a lot. His emotional interview with NBC after the race showed just how much it weight it carried.
“I don’t know if it’s just set in yet. Right now I’m just kind of hurt,” Dressel told NBC. “But it’s a really tough year, it’s really hard so to have the results show up. I mean, it really came together, so I’m happy.”
And then came more emotion when he shared a special moment with his family as they were able to briefly speak with each other on the broadcast.
This was one of those moments that reminds you just how much these athletes sacrifice to compete in the Olympic Games. Caeleb Dressel and his family both bawling from opposite sides of the globe. #TeamUSA #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/2MfPYgaX0A
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) July 29, 2021
Dressel was still emotional on the walk back to the team room as he continued to process his win.
And then he capped his Thursday morning in Tokyo by receiving the gold medal, watching from the podium as the American flag was raised and “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played.