Caeleb Dressel on Time Away and Return to the Pool: ‘I Missed it Every Single Day’

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Caeleb Dressel on Time Away and Return to the Pool: ‘I Missed it Every Single Day’

Caeleb Dressel‘s return to the pool might seem disappointing. A third-place finish and a few missed finals isn’t what we usually see from the Olympic gold medalist.

But while the races didn’t result in any victories, the meet itself was a huge victory for Dressel.

“I’m doing good right now. I am very indifferent about my results right now. I am kind of being pulled both ways – a little embarrassed, but fully understanding what just happened,” Dressel said. “I have always loved the sport and how fair it is, so I get it. I am proud of myself with the results, believe it or not – I am not used to the C finals. But I wouldn’t have changed anything about the year. I am excited to get back to work.”

Dressel has not raced since he left last year’s world championships with health concerns.

“I don’t know if it was one thing in particular, but the easiest way to put it is my body kept score,” he said. “There are a lot of things I shoved down and they all came boiling up, so I didn’t have a choice. I used to pride myself in shoving things down, and it worked for quite a while, until I couldn’t anymore. It was a bunch of things that came crumbling down at once and I knew that was my red flag right there.”

The Olympic champion took nearly nearly a year off from competition, something he felt he needed.

“I have always said that, since the first time I gave a talk – you gotta take a break. That is my main message to every age-group swimmer. I was that kid who took two months and did not think anything of it. I would go play soccer or football or run track. It’s healthy. It is hard to see that when you get higher up in the sport, but I needed it.”

Dressel didn’t want to return until he was ready to fully get back into competition mode and turn his focus toward 2024.

“I missed it almost every single day. I missed every part of it, and that is how I new I was ready to get back. I didn’t need to, I wanted to,”  Caeleb Dressel said. “The moment I knew I was ready was when I was mowing – I have a sweet zero-turn mower – and I will never forget the spot I was going around. It just popped into my head that if I never get back into swimming, I’m gonna be OK. That is how I knew I was ready to come back. That was huge for me.”

He finished tied for 22nd in the 50 freestyle prelims. His time of 22.72 came up 1.68 seconds behind his own American record of 21.04. Dressel chose to scratch the C-final. But Dressel finished third in the 50 butterfly (23.35), in a tie for fifth in the 100 fly (51.66) and 19th in the 100 free (49.64), with none of his times close to his career-bests.

In his time away, he worked on them mental side of the sport and of life.

“The No. 1 thing I am really good at is that I can actually sit on my front porch with Meghan and be OK with it and not think of a million things that I need to be doing, or what I did wrong at practice, or why I thought I did bad in Tokyo, or why 2019 was terrible,” Caeleb Dressel said. “I can actually sit still, which is hard for me to do anyway, but I got really good sitting with myself and not even thinking about swimming. There were other priorities that were much bigger than swimming. That is probably one of the things I am most proud of.”

Dressel had been away from racing, but also away from the atmosphere of a big meet for so long, he felt refreshed seeing old friends and swimming in front of a big crowd.

“I had a smile on my face racing. There is a difference between being scared of embarrassing yourself and having a joy of racing, and I haven’t had that joy in a long time,” Caeleb Dressel said. “I got it back. The times weren’t fast – they weren’t bad – but they weren’t fast. If I can have the mindset I had in this meet next year and years after this, I can have a very long and very successful career.”

And that starts with the aim of making the Olympic team next year at U.S. Olympic Trials back in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“It is tough knowing that I have to go from the times I just saw, to being back in the same city in a year. I know what goes into the sport, and I am not just running off of talent. But you lose touch a little bit. Luckily, I get what goes into it and (Anthony) Nesty gets it and I am confident heading into next season. I am not worried about the physical part of it, but if I can take the mental side that I approach the sport with in Lucas Oil Stadium, I’ll be fine.”

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Isabelle Fraser
Isabelle Fraser
10 months ago

Watching Caeleb start in the 50 free, it sure looked like he never lost his speed off the blocks.👍🏽

Janice Ramer
Janice Ramer
10 months ago


Would love your thoughts, please comment.x