Can Caeleb Dressel Pull Off Historic 50 Free-100 Free-100 Fly Triple in Tokyo? Assessing His Chances in Each Event


Can Caeleb Dressel Pull Off Historic 50 Free-100 free-100 Fly Triple in Tokyo? Assessing His Chances in Each Event

There is little Caeleb Dressel hasn’t done in his swimming career so far. Next summer’s Olympic Games present him with an opportunity to add yet another otherworldly achievement to his CV.

The 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly combination is a rarely attempted triple at international competitions. While East Germany’s Kristin Otto and Dutch legend Inge de Bruijn completed the sweep in 1988 and 2000, respectively, no man has had such success. Matt Biondi came within a hundredth of a second of achieving the feat in Seoul, only for University of Florida men’s head swimming coach Anthony Nesty to deny him the feat in the 100 fly, becoming the first black swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal in the process. Biondi remains the only man to medal in all three events at one Olympics.

With Dressel dominating the events at the last two World Championships, many believe he can go one better than Biondi in Tokyo. While he may be the favorite in all three events, many swimmers will look to pull off a Nesty-esque performance at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre.

Let’s look at Dressel’s gold medal chances in each event.

50 Freestyle

After a subpar 2018, which included a motorcycle accident weeks before Nationals and Pan Pacs, Dressel showed the world he was back when he successfully defended his world championship title in 2019. He won the event in 21.04, reclaiming his textile world record from British record holder Ben Proud.

As we saw in Rio, anything can happen on the day, especially in the 50 free, and if Dressel has an off swim in the final, a few swimmers could take advantage. Proud, the 2018 European champion, has consistently been in the upper echelon of the 50 free since his breakout performance at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He has made six straight major championship finals since Glasgow and will be looking to add Olympic gold to his European and Commonwealth championships in this event.

Bruno Fratus has also been a mainstay at the top end of the 50 free, winning medals at the last three World Championships in the event. The Brazilian, who has the most sub-22 50 freestyle swims in history, always seems to perform on the big stage and will be looking to pull off an upset on the biggest one.

2012 Olympic champion Florent Manaudou will be looking for redemption after Anthony Ervin upset him to win the event in Rio. Manaudou, who only returned to the sport last year after a two-year hiatus while pursuing a professional handball career, has looked great since his return to the sport and will be a massive threat if he’s in the final in Tokyo.

100 Freestyle

The swimming world eagerly anticipated a Caeleb Dressel vs. Kyle Chalmers rematch this summer after watching the 100 free final in Gwangju. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to wait another year, but it doesn’t take away from the matchup’s magnitude.

Chalmers, who had to withdraw from the last World Championships due to heart surgery, made an impressive comeback last year, finishing just .12 behind Dressel in Gwangju to snag silver in the event. He will be looking to be one better in Tokyo to defend his title from Rio.

Dressel, known for his phenomenal start and top-end speed, will have to be at his absolute best, especially in the final third, if he is to hold off the fast-finishing Chalmers. The final could be the race of the meet with up and coming sprinters looking to upset the Dressel-Chalmers party.

Last year’s Worlds bronze medalist, Vladislav Grinev, and newly-minted World Junior Record holder, Andrei Minakov, will aim to be the first Russians to medal in the event since four-time Olympic Champion Alexander Popov won silver in 2000.

Olympic relay champion Ryan Held will also be looking to build upon his U.S. Open record-breaking year in 2019 and upstage favorites, Dressel and Chalmers.

100 Butterfly

For the past three years, Caeleb Dressel has been in a league of his own in the event. The world record holder obliterated the field in Gwangju, winning by over a second. Barring disqualification, it’s hard to see anyone beating him in Tokyo.

Mehdy Metella looked promising last year after going 50.85 unshaved at French Nationals, but a nagging shoulder injury kept him from being in top form at Worlds. He was due to miss Tokyo after having shoulder surgery in late 2019, but with the Games being postponed, it will be interesting to see what type of shape he’s in come 2021.

Hungarian Kristof Milak, the world-record holder in the 200 butterfly, could be a factor and 2019 U.S. national champion Maxime Rooney and Worlds silver medalist Andrei Minakov had breakout years in 2019, going 50.6 and 50.8, respectively. But it’s hard to see Dressel throwing this one away.

There will be many storylines in play come Tokyo 2021, but the possibility of a 50 free-100-free-100 fly triple is most intriguing.