2021 Trials Vision: Caeleb Dressel Show Will Wait a Year in 50 Freestyle

Caeleb Dressel of the United States of America (USA) reacts after winning in the men's 50m Freestyle Final during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 27 July 2019.
Caeleb Dressel. Photo Courtesy: PATRICK B. KRAEMER

Each day during the pre-scheduled days of the 2020 US Olympic Trials, Swimming World will take its readers back four years to the 2016 Trials in Omaha to recap each event, and will offer some insight into what the events will look like in 2021. Today: Caeleb Dressel lead the 50 free pack.

The Caeleb Dressel show will have to wait another year. With the 2020 Olympics pushed to 2021, swimming fans will have to wait a little longer to see what Dressel can do at Trials — and which events he will do for that matter.

Competing in the 50 free is a certainty. Four years ago, he finished behind a trio of Olympic sprinting medalists in Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin and Cullen Jones.

Caeleb Dressel (L) of the United States of America (USA) and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden pose with the trophy for the best male and female swimmer at the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 28 July 2019.

Caeleb Dressel (L) of the United States of America (USA) and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden, king and queen of the World Championships. Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

Dressel made the team in the 100 free and swam on the 4×100 free and 4×100 medley relay to earn gold for Team USA.

But he finished sixth individually in the 100 free and was a little disappointed. He responded by unleashing an assault on the water for the next four years. Dressel set numerous NCAA and American records at Florida, breaking barriers no one thought were possible. He has also dominated at the World Championships, proving he is ready to have a dominating trials.

But in the 50 anything can happen. Who can catch him?

The Favorite

Dressel is clearly the favorite this time around. He flat out dominated the 2019 FINA World Championships, winning gold in the 50 and 100 freestyle events as well as the 50 and 100 butterfly events and two relays.

He has the top five times in the U.S. since the start of 2019.

It seems like the only thing that can stop him is the fact that it is the 50, where anything can happen in the blink of an eye.

The Contenders


Nathan Adrian; Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Nathan Adrian is back, swimming in his extraordinary comeback from testicular cancer. He has put together some good swims and made the World Championships in 2019 as a relay swimmer.

Adrian will be swimming with more heart and emotion than he ever has before, and that could make a huge difference.

He went a 21.87 at the 2019 Pan American Games.

Meanwhile, who knows what Anthony Ervin is going to do? He has participated in national meets and masters meets since 2016 and always seems to have something up his sleeve ready for a special swim at the right time.

Michael Andrew has been the next fastest in the 50 since the start of 2019, clocking a 21.62 at the 2019 world championships.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Zach Apple has been as fast as 21.81, while Ryan Held has been a 21.87. Both might have better shots to make it in the 100 free, but are still contenders here, as is Michael Chadwick, who was a finalist four years ago and still is going strong at 21.96, as well as Dean Farris and Blake Pieroni.

The Longshots

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Photo Courtesy: David Curtiss Instagram (@_davidcurtiss)

David Curtiss has been an upstart on the junior circuit and went a 21.95 at the World Junior Championships in 2019, while Adam Chaney was a 22.40.

Meanwhile, Bowe Becker and Robert Howard have put together some fast swims and could make things interesting, along with Tate Jackson, Payton Sorenson and Kyle DeCoursey.

Looking Ahead to 2021

Caeleb Dressel is young enough that this extra year shouldn’t affect him much. As far as the older guys, it is still the sprint, and training into their 30s has proven to work a little differently, but still effectively.

The 50 could be the cap on a spectacular Trials for Dressel and who knows, it could be a special finish for one of the legends, giving them one more race in the Olympics.

2021 Trials Vision:

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