Caeleb Dressel Shatters 100 ‘fly World Record In 49.50 – Rome 2009 Phelps Vs Cavic Battle Is History (Race Video)

Caeleb Dressel of the United States of America (USA) celebrates a New World Record after competing in the men's 100m Butterfly Semifinal during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 26 July 2019.
Caeleb Dressel - calm celebration, half a speedy job done - Photo Courtesy: PATRICK B. KRAEMER

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World Swimming Championships (Caeleb Dressel)


Day 6 (Men’s 100m butterfly semi-finals)

Caeleb Dressel has just shattered the world record with a 49.50 blast in another world at the helm of pace going through top the final of the 100m butterfly. He’d intended it, telling Swimming World: “I woke up today and I wanted to do it, I thought I was ready to do it … I didn’t want any other any thoughts besides going under that 49.82.”

The standard had stood at 49.82 to fellow American Michael Phelps since the battle of the bodysuits with Milorad Cavic in Rome back in 2009, the victor in half shiny, the vanquished in full shiny.

Dressel went out in 22.83, Phelps’ split in 2009 a 23.36. Dressel was back in 26.67.

Stop the clock. Rowdy Gaines was sitting about 30m away down the media bench from Swimming World commentating for NBC. In his racing heyday, Gaines, Olympic 100m champion of 1984, held the world best for 50m for a while in 1980, his 22.96 the first sub-23 – on freestyle…

After speeding to another lane 4 in tomorrow’s showdowns, with a a 21.18 blast over 50m freestyle, Dressel, the dragon king of butterfly speed, said:

“Both those races hurt pretty bad. It doesn’t matter: you just have to go in with your strategy and stick to it. There is a lot that I need to clean up going into tomorrow: these times mean nothing. I’m here to swim fast for Team USA and we had a really good tonight. Especially with Regan: that was phenomenal, I thought was one of the top three toughest world records on the women’s side and she just crushed it so congrats to her. We are having a good night so I am happy to contribute to that. There is nothing magic there: just good old race strategy.”

The airwaves crackling with superlatives for and descriptions of coach Gregg Troy’s charge as everything form aquatic God to the heir to a realm of greatest, Spitz to Phelps, Dressel would have none of it, what with all that scary stuff out there in the outer orbits of achievement: “I don’t want to hype myself up in any way, shape or form. It can be a scary thought to do something that has never been done before. Two years ago I was a little scared … ”

Times change and Dressel has grown in confidence and boldness of mind. He said:

“I didn’t expect to go that fast. Consciously having that on your mind, wanting to go there. I woke up today and I wanted to do it, I thought I was ready to do it. I slept fine last night, I didn’t really have the nerves, I just wanted to do it. And that is all there is to it at the end of the day: just doing it. I didn’t want any other any thoughts besides going under that 49.82.”

“So to get it done – I’m proud of myself, I’m glad my family is here to watch it. It feels good. Just the standard that Michael set for people to go after it. You know records are meant to be broke. I hope he was happy watching me today. I’ve been on a team with him, the way he carries himself, so I’m happy.”

Dressel is now the second man to take down a Phelps ‘fly record in Gwangju. Kristof Milak clocked 1:50.73 in the 200m on Wednesday.

We will never know what Phelps and Cavic might have clocked that boiling summer in the Eternal City had they been racing beyond their bodysuits and degrees of shiny.

Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

What we do know is that Dressel now has seven of the best 100m swims ever in textile, including the swiftest 6:

  • 49.50 Dressel, Caeleb, USA LCM2019
  • 49.86 Dressel, Caeleb, USA LCM2017
  • 50.07 Dressel, Caeleb, USA LCM2017
  • 50.08 Dressel, Caeleb, USA LCM2017
  • 50.28 Dressel, Caeleb, USA LCM2019
  • 50.36 Dressel, Caeleb, USA LCM2019
  • 50.39 Schooling, Joseph, SIN LCM2016
  • 50.40 Crocker, Ian, USA LCM2005
  • 50.45 Phelps, Michael, USA LCM2015
  • 50.50 Dressel, Caeleb, USA LCM2018

Michael Phelps, Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Finalists for the 100m, Gwangju 2019:

  1. Caeleb Dressel (USA), 49.50 WR
  2. Andrei Minakov (RUS), 50.94
  3. Kristof Milak (HUN), 50.95
  4. Chad Le Clos (RSA), 51.40
  5. Marius Kusch (GER), 51.50
  6. Mehdy Metella (FRA), 51.62
  7. James Guy (GBR), 51.69
  8. Matthew Temple (AUS), 51.70

Read more about the FINA World Swimming Championships.

World Record Progression:

  • 51.81, Michael Klim, AUS (1999)
  • 51.76, Andriy Serdinov, UKR (2003)
  • 51.47, Michael Phelps, USA (2003)
  • 50.98, Ian Crocker, USA (2003)
  • 50.76, Ian Crocker, USA (2004)
  • 50.40, Ian Crocker, USA (2005)
  • 50.22, Michael Phelps, USA (2009)
  • 50.01, Milorad Cavic, SRB (2009)
  • 49.82, Michael Phelps, USA (2009)
  • 49.50, Caeleb Dressel, USA (2019)

All-Time Performers:

  1. 49.50, Caeleb Dressel, USA (2019)
  2. 49.82, Michael Phelps, USA (2009)
  3. 49.95, Milorad Cavic, SRB (2009)
  4. 50.39, Joseph Schooling SGP (2016)
  5. 50.40, Ian Crocker, USA (2005)
  6. 50.41, Rafael Munoz, ESP (2009)
  7. 50.56, Chad Le Clos, RSA (2015)
  8. 50.62, Kristof Milak, HUN (2017)
  9. 50.64, Piero Codia, ITA (2018)
  10. 50.65, Albert Subirats, VEN (2009)

From the archive: penned by Craig Lord, August 1, 2009, Foro Italico, in Rome:

Are you not entertained? Get me Russell Crowe on the line. Bring on the gladiators. Lions at the ready. Rome awaited a swimming hero – and it got two. Michael Phelps, 14 Olympic gold medals in tow, rocked the history of his sport in a raw display of pugilistic aggression to crack the 50sec barrier over 100m butterfly and drag his Serbian rival into uncharted waters with him.

It has been 33 years and 7 days since Jim Montgomery of the US sent a Montreal Olympics crowd into a frenzy with the first sub-50sec 100m freestyle swim. He wore nylon briefs at a Games that introduced goggles and vision to Olympic waters and witnessed what had remained a record of world records ever since, on 29. In Rome, there have been 39 so far.

In what will go down as the ultimate battle of the bodysuits before the performance-enhancing equipment is banned from January 1 next year, Phelps and Milorad Cavic surfed on a tide of strategy and raw score-to-settle aggression.

It was Mikey Maximus but hardly Milo Minimus.

Three other world records fell last night to take the total to 39, 10 more than the previous record of records was set back in Montreal when  with one day left at the final meet for high-tech bodysuits.

Cavic, 0.01sec behind Phelps in Beijing last year, is the hare, a bolter from the blocks, a man with a best time over 50m a second faster than Phelps. A man who had said on Friday that he would buy Phelps a better suit if he felt that his wasn’t up to the job of beating him. Unwise, perhaps. But fun, too.

Phelps’s coach Bob Bowman calls his pupil “the motivation machine … he feeds off anything you throw at him”. They worked out that Phelpss had to be no more than 0.7sec behind the Serbian at the turn. The gap was 0.67sec.

It looked like an impossible task, but with 20m remaining, Phelps surged, clawing back inches with every passing, almost technically perfect, stroke. He nailed the finish with a punch. The clock screamed: 49.84 WR – and a 49.95 for Cavic, not as close as the 0.01sec, but just as sensational. It was a boiling, toiling effort from both men. A rolling killer-whale of a finish by Phelps.

Phelps, defending champion, spun round, saw the Nos “1” and “49” by his name and exploded. He leapt on the lane rope separating him and Cavic, thrashed the water and threw up his arms and tugged on his suit.

The rivals finally shook hands. Cavic, born and raised in the US and among those for whom Phelps held no fear, said: “You’re the man.” Phelps said nothing, his actions having spoken louder than words. Later, the American said that the race and aftermath was like “two boxers staring each other down … I think that’s great for the sport.” Bowman, who was interrupted in his interview in the media mixed zone by Cavic, who wanted to shake the coaches’ hand, said that it was “compelling”. “Great entertainment,” someone mumbled. Bob nodded.

“I knew I had a strategy to follow and if it went like that I could win. It did and that’s not down to suits, its a matter of training,” said Phelps.  “It’ll be cool in 2010 when we can get back to talking about swimming not suits.” Cavic looked at the result sheet and said: “This is just a testament to Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps does what Michael Phelps can do. And he did!” said Cavic, coached by Andrea di Nino in Italy.

In one of the most memorable events of the Beijing Olympics, Phelps pulled out an improbable victory on his final half-stroke to beat Cavic by the narrowest possible margin. Without that win, Phelps would not have broken Mark Spitz’s record with eight gold medals in a single games.

Cavic has mulled over the loss ever since, as any sensible competitor would. Some quote him as saying he believed he touched first but he also makes clear that he “didn’t put as much pressure on the touchpad” as Phelps, who came crashing into the wall at a much faster finishing speed that Cavic’s glide without an X.

Cavic set a world record of 50.01 in semi-finals on Friday, 0.21sec inside Phelps’s previous mark. I watched what happened next: Phelps and Bowman stayed behind for quite some time, the swimmer paddling, stretching, flexing in the diving pool. No rush, no stress, just doing what they had to do and what they knew worked well, many times over.

Cavic tried to mess with Phelps’ head, saying it was the American’s own fault for being wedded to his LZR when he could have raced in a speedboat or something like the arena X-Glide, made in response to the first wave of what should never have made it into the race pool last year.

But Cavic was playing with fire, of course, when he offered to get Phelps an X-Glide “within the hour,” or buy him another rubber bullet from his own purse. Cavic said he would really prefer to race Phelps wearing nothing but briefs. He will get his wish, or at least close to it, sometime soon. Cavic has been painted as a villain in some quarters. He’s anything but. He has an edge. He’s a competitor, a terrific one at that.  He also made a point of being a good sport in defeat.

Phelps said he would do his talking in the pool, but he had a fair bit to say for himself too, and that was also entertaining. Of the ribbing he said: “How can it not motivate you? When there are things that are said, the only thing it does for me is fire me up. It does nothing but literally motivate me to no end, and I love it.” That much was obvious, in the smile, the body language that left no room for doubt: Phelps is in his element. He will be in his element in 2010 to 2012 too, on his amazing journey as the poster boy to the symphony of support that plays on behind each curtain call.

Beyond the race, the time on the clock was not one that should stand in the record books along world marks set in standard suits, coach Bob Bowman believed.

After watching Paul Biedermann and an arena X-Glide blow Phelps out of the water with a 1:42.00 world-rcord win in the 200m free, Bowman said that “the suit was worth 1.5sec” to the German. The total drop: 4sec. To 1:42 flat. That takes a hell of a lot of training.

“I’d like to know how to do that,” Bowman told reporters in the mixed zone. “I laughed when I read Craig Lord’s stuff on suit enhancement. I didn’t believe it. I believe it now.”

“We’ve lost the history of the sport. Does a 10-year-old boy in Baltimore want to break Paul Biedermann’s record? Is that going to make him join swimming?

“It took me five years to get Michael from 1:46 to 1:42 and this guy has done it in 11 months. That’s an amazing training performance. I’d like to know how to do that.

“I would be perfectly happy if we adjust all the records starting with the LZR. If we took them all out and went back to 2007. Even those in Beijing. We can have them in a separate list. These were done in polyurethane suits and then these are done in textile suits. Then we can start over in January and make the sport about swimming.”

Bowman continued: “I just said to Doug Frost [Thorpe’s mentor], the two of us were erased in three days. It took no time, what took us 12 years together (to build). It makes me wonder why I still want to keep doing this. Why would I take another 13-year-old and bring him through, because once he gets there, there’s is nothing to shoot for. Once the suits are taken out we would never get there (to Biedermann’s time).

“There should be separate lists for polyurethane and textile suits, so we can start over in January. I think these records need to be kept apart.”

A footnote to the race. The battle of the bodysuits was almost called off: Phelps collided with Aussie sprinter Cate Campbell in warm-up. His goggles cracked in two and his shoulder was hurt. Bowman thought he might have to withdraw his athlete. Phelps would have none of it. He had a show to put on.

Are you not entertained? Surely we are. But we can look forward to seeing the first sub-50sec 100 ‘fly in a textile suit for some years to come: from a swim that does not overshadow what is an amazing achievement, that does not cast doubt on a single swimmer or performance in a world-title line-up. That allows us to return home entertained and glowing in the knowledge that what we saw was as real as it gets on the scale of human endeavour.

Relive The Race in Rome 2009

Phelps’s victory granted him a fourth gold medal (not forgetting that motivational silver behind Herr Biedermann) of the championships. He is likely to win a fifth gold, in the medley relay today, if all goes well for Team USA in heats.

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Proteeti Sinha
4 years ago

Phelps’ World Record was 49.82, not 49.87.

Fabrício Madureira Madureira


Katarzyna Gebska-Fila
4 years ago

Good job!!!

Lisa Ankarloo
4 years ago

Anri Balam Cifuentes Robinson

Juan Josue Serrano
4 years ago

Danielle Santana

Danielle Santana
4 years ago

Juan Josue Serrano volaoo volaooo??

Shanice Hope Robbins
4 years ago

Alicia Robbins

Aaron Wands
4 years ago

Doug he did it! That magnificent bastard did it! ???

Doug Newman
4 years ago
Reply to  Aaron Wands

Aaron Wands hid first of many to come!!

Nicole Monanian
4 years ago

Karina Lee

Ioanna Zografos
4 years ago

Way to go ??

David Couturier
4 years ago


Andy Ponce
4 years ago

Roger Ponce otro más ?

Burr Bee
4 years ago


Paul Roe
4 years ago

GOOD WORK! Keep ’em coming people!

Ivan Picado
4 years ago


Kel Ryan
4 years ago

Dude is such a beast!!! UNREAL swim

Caroline Haxton
4 years ago

Holy crap that is some time! ???

Sherrill O'connor
4 years ago

Congrats to him! ??

Jay Bonham
4 years ago

Awesome! Congratulations!!

Lévis-Simon Carpentier

Jacob St-Germain Simon Deloye …..sub 50 seconds on the 100 fly…..

Jacob St-Germain
4 years ago

le record etait deja sub 50 gros big mais still wtffffff

Tracy Lee Coleman Garcia

Beast mode

Morgen Hawkins
4 years ago

Fraser Sutton wot

Fraser Sutton
4 years ago
Reply to  Morgen Hawkins

Morgen Hawkins this meet is cooked , everyone must be on pingas

Morgen Hawkins
4 years ago
Reply to  Morgen Hawkins

Fraser Sutton i wanna be on what they are on

Morgen Hawkins
4 years ago
Reply to  Morgen Hawkins

Fraser Sutton i wanna be on what they are on

Blake Gibson
4 years ago

Dale McNamara

Dale McNamara
4 years ago
Reply to  Blake Gibson

Blake Gibson holy shit

Chris Caietti
4 years ago

Gabby Caietti
Naomi Caietti

Susie Matich
4 years ago

Omg amazing

Rich Davis
4 years ago

What a stunning performance.
One needs to remember however, how many events Phelps used to swim and how many swims he did prior to some of his WR performances. I’d guess some of these times would be much lower if they’d been one off events for him.

Rich Davis
4 years ago

Leland Wong noted where exactly?

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