Caeleb Dressel Ties American Record in 50 Free; Michael Andrew Takes Second Spot Ahead of Nathan Adrian

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

America’s favorite men’s swimming star Caeleb Dressel gave the Omaha crowd something to cheer about on the final night of the 2021 US Olympic Trials as he tied his own American record of 21.04 in the 50 freestyle, extending his lead on the rest of the world.

Dressel had the top time in the world with a 21.29, with Russia’s Vladimir Morozov behind him at 21.41 in the world rankings, and Dressel is now well in front of the rest of the sprinting world in this event – with the world record potentially coming next.

“I was super happy with that,” Dressel said. “There’s only so much you can think about in a race that lasts 21 seconds. I knew I had a chance to be 21-low. I’m really, really happy with that. I held stroke together. I got a little choppy in the middle, but I think the beginning and the end were as good as it could have been.”

Michael Andrew, 22, picked up his third event for the Olympic Games in Tokyo by finishing second in 21.48, as he remains fourth in the world. The time is just off of Andrew’s best of 21.46.


Michael Andrew. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“Not as happy with the time but I’m very happy with another second,” Andrew said. “I knew that the field would be quick. I knew that Nathan would be vying for a spot, and it’s always an honor to race those guys. I really just made sure I needed to not focus on what Caeleb was doing and swim my own race, and it was a good one. It’s still not a PB, but I guess we can save that for Tokyo.”

Andrew’s runner-up finish locks Nathan Adrian out of a fourth Olympic bid as he finished third overall at 21.73. For the first time since the 2007 Worlds, Adrian will not be on a major U.S. national team after also missing the final of the 100 freestyle.

“It was not what I was hoping for. It has been absolutely crazy,” Adrian said. “I don’t know to be honest what is next.”

Adrian gave plaudits to Caeleb Dressel, who tied his own American record and remains the third fastest man ever in the 50 freestyle. Dressel’s likely next step is to take a jab at the world record at the Olympics, the record having stood since the 2009 Worlds – 20.91 from Cesar Cielo. Dressel’s time also ties the fastest swim in textile – records we started keeping since the shiny suit ban went into effect at the start of the decade in 2010.

“The thing that is so fun that we are still so far away from the true ceiling of how fast we can go,” Adrian said.

Bowe Becker, who will race in Tokyo for the 4×100 free relay, finished fourth at 21.78, lowering his best time of 21.83.

Lasting Legacy

Caeleb Dressel had the quickest reaction time at 0.60, and at 15 meters he had already established a noticeable lead even from the press corner on the lane eight side of the pool. By 25, Dressel and Andrew looked to be the clear two, while Adrian seemed like he needed a late push to get to the wall.

It was not in the cards however for Adrian, who finished in third with his fastest time in the 2020 Olympic cycle. Dressel and Andrew are off to the Olympics in their third events as Dressel will swim the 100 free and 100 fly, while Andrew will swim the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke.


Nathan Adrian. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Adrian did not indicate whether he was done after this – the last few years have been a rocky road, both good and bad, for him. In 2019, he announced a testicular cancer diagnosis, and in 2021 he became a father to a baby girl.

Adrian has long been one of the faces of USA Swimming – making his first Olympic team in 2008 at age 19. In 2009, he won his first national titles in the 50 and 100 freestyle, and since then has been the go-to man in those events. Adrian’s 100 free Olympic gold medal in 2012 marked him as the first American man to win the event since 1988, and in 2016 he found his way back to the podium with the bronze medal.

He anchored the gold medal winning relays in the 4×100 free and 4×100 medley in 2016. Needless to say, seeing Adrian not make a US national team is not a common sight to any of these fans in Omaha. When he left the deck without signing the drum for Tokyo, it became a surreal feeling for those in the crowd, knowing Adrian would not be going to Tokyo.

“The first time I got my hand on the wall before Nathan was in ’17 but that doesn’t mean I stopped leaning on him or stopped looking up to him,” Caeleb Dressel said after the meet. “Every meet since ’16 with Nathan, I’ve leaned on the guy. If I’m being honest I am not ready to be on a team without Nathan, and I told him that.

“Just what he brings to the team, his impact and what he presents to the team is huge. He left behind some really big shoes to fill and I am not ready for it. I’m going to have to be. It doesn’t fall just on my shoulders. Everyone who is on the team is going to have to pick up the pace because what they left behind is huge. I was really rooting for Nathan but the point of this meet is to pick the two fastest guys so everything he left behind is monumental.”

The Road to Tokyo Clears

For Michael Andrew, his third event for the Olympics is a mission accomplished for him and his father, Peter, who was named to the USA Swimming coaching staff for the Games.

“For me, this was the plan coming into it,” Andrew said of qualifying for the 50. “Our training, starting in January, we started from scratch thinking 100 breast, 200 IM, 50 free, those are our focuses. And we came in and executed, focused on the details and by the grace of god, everything worked out accordion got the plan.”

For the whole US Olympic swim team, next is a training camp trip to Hawaii before the team heads to Japan, something Dressel is very much looking forward to.

“That’s been my favorite part of every national team trip I’ve been on is training camp,” he said. “It’s messing around and making memories, getting a good laugh here and there. Everybody is on taper so everybody is feeling good about themselves. It’s such a good time – all of it.


Caeleb Dressel. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“Training camp is when you become Team USA and I’m really looking forward to that. It doesn’t happen overnight. The team is so young, I am going to have to learn everyone’s name! I’m so bad with names and I am kind of nervous about that. I am excited for training camp and the nerves are done – this was the hard part. This meet is grueling…there are parts of this meet that really, really suck and there are parts of this meet that are really, really fun if you get your hand on the wall first or second.”

Dressel has been one of the top swimmers in the world since 2017, having won the world swimmer of the year by this publication in 2017 and 2019, and now will have a chance to fight for the gold medal in the 50 and 100 free, and the 100 butterfly. Dressel’s times in the pool have been stellar – he is leading the world rankings in two of his three events, and is chasing world records in all of them. Dressel is no stranger to eight day international meets, and is ready for the challenge the Olympics will bring.

“These meets are really tough for me,” Dressel said. “I’ve always been a double taper kind of guy so it’s really tough to get everything in to gear to get your hand on the wall first at these meets and there’s some guys who can really show up at the first go-around. I’ve really struggled with that so I am excited to swim again in a month.

“There’s plenty that we can do to get better and move forward from this. This was a really fun meet. I think I got better each event. I feel fine right now and I’m ready to get back in the water for the plan but you have to enjoy the moment, which is something I struggle with. I get myself tonight and I’ll be ready to roll tomorrow and I’ll get back to training plan and get ready to move forward.”

As for finals being held in the morning in Japan, that doesn’t faze Dressel in the slightest.

“The pool is going to be the same length so not too much is going to change,” he said. “You might have to adjust some things here or there, a couple more sprint sets in the morning. Other than that, if you aren’t fired up to swim at the Olympics, something is wrong with you, so it doesn’t matter it is morning or night.”


  1. Caeleb Dressel, 21.04
  2. Michael Andrew, 21.48
  3. Nathan Adrian, 21.73
  4. Bowe Becker, 21.78
  5. Adam Chaney, 22.08
  6. David Curtiss, 22.12
  7. Justin Ress, 22.14
  8. Michael Chadwick, 22.23

World Rankings (Tokyo Qualifiers)

  1. 21.04, Caeleb Dressel, USA
  2. 21.41, Vladimir Morozov, RUS
  3. 21.42, Ben Proud, GBR
  4. 21.48, Michael Andrew, USA
  5. 21.60, Kristian Gkolomeev, GRE
  6. 21.61, Ari-Pekka Liukkonen, FIN
  7. 21.62, Thom de Boer, NED
  8. 21.67, Florent Manaudou, FRA
  9. 21.73, Bruno Fratus, BRA
  10. 21.74, Maxime Grousset, FRA






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
2 years ago

Right now, I feel really sad and heartbroken because I don’t get to see Nathan Adrian compete in this year’s Olympics.

Felipe Serra-Martins
2 years ago

Antonio – Dressel clocked 21.04 in 50m free ???

Thomas A. Small
2 years ago


Would love your thoughts, please comment.x