Tokyo Flashback: Caeleb Dressel Helps U.S. Men’s Medley Relay to Redemption as Streak Continues (Updated)

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Ryan Murphy (USA) , Michael Andrew (USA) , Caeleb Dressel (USA) and Zach Apple (USA) celebrate during the medals ceremony for the men's 4x100m medley relay during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today

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Tokyo Flashback: Caeleb Dressel Helps U.S. Men’s Medley Relay to Redemption as Streak Continues

One year has passed since the Olympic Games, delayed by a year due to COVID-19, unfolded in Tokyo. To celebrate what went down in the Japanese capital, Swimming World is revisiting the championship finals – each on their one-year anniversary – by once again running the stories that were posted after the medals were decided.

Caeleb Dressel wasn’t even out of the water yet, but he could hear the page turning.

The United States mixed medley relay had just finished a disappointing fifth in the first ever Olympic running of the event. But Dressel was still in the competition pool at the Tokyo Aquatic Center when the other man on that foursome, his Team USA co-captain Ryan Murphy, uttered the instruction to shake it off.

“That’s how we work here,” Dressel said. “We knew we had a shot at doing something special tomorrow, so Murph was already refocusing.”

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Ryan Murphy (USA) and Caeleb Dressel (USA) celebrate after winning the men's 4x100m medley final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Murphy, left, and Caeleb Dressel after the U.S. Men’s Medley Relay win; Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today

That something special wasn’t just forestalling the prognosticated demise of American swimming. It a gold medal with a world-record cherry on top.

Murphy, Dressel, Michael Andrew and Zach Apple comprised the quartet that took down the world record and the field, fending off the charge by Great Britain to win gold in 3:26.78. The British earned silver, their third relay medal of these games after none in the previous 109 years, in 3:27.51 with Italy third.

Finishing fifth, with Lydia Jacoby and Torri Huske, in the first mixed medley relay in Olympic history, far undercut the Americans’ usual expectations for themselves. But the women’s team won silver Sunday on the final day of the Tokyo Olympics, and the U.S. men’s medley relay earned gold to banish any demons.

“I think as athletes, we are always looking to the next thing,” Murphy said. “Even as we come into these mixed zones after a race, we’re always looking at the next race. Yesterday, right after the mixed medley, it’s like, ‘OK, that is done and over with. We’ve got a stacked men’s medley coming up. We’ve got to go, warm down, get ready for that.’ And luckily we did that today.”

The win continues maybe the most impressive streak in international swimming: Save for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, which the United States boycotted, the U.S. men have won all 15 medley relays contested. Sunday’s required some outside smoke after a lackluster prelims swim landed the U.S. men’s medley relay in lane 1.

Murphy went out first in 52.31, giving the U.S. men’s medley relay a needed cushion. They were third after the breaststroke leg thanks to Adam Peaty uncorking a ludicrous 56.53. But Andrew did his job in 58.49 to hand off to Dressel in third place.

Andrew was coming off the 50 free in which he finished fourth, a quick turnaround that few people who are not Caeleb Dressel aren’t used to.

“We train for it like anybody else, and I think it was an excellent warmup,” Andrew said. “We had a lot of time between the 50 and the start of the relay at the end. My body felt primed, and to walk out on deck with three studs, it’s an honor and we did what we have to do.”

Murphy was hard on himself at the 2019 World Championships when he led off in 52.9 in a race the U.S. lost to the British. He admitted using that swim as motivation more than once in the two years since.

“That race in 2019 is one I have watched a couple of times in days I was doing good or my body was breaking down or I didn’t necessarily want to work hard,” Murphy said. “I’ve watched that and gotten fired up, and it’s definitely motivated me over the past two years to make sure that when we got to the end of this meet, 1) I’m able to do a good 100 back, but I’m also able to do a good 100 back at the end of this long meet.”

Dressel did what Dressel does and summarily smacked the field. He was the fastest by more than a second on his leg in a silly 49.03. He handed off a sixth-tenths advantage to Apple, who didn’t need it, outsplitting Duncan Scott on the way home to get the win.

The Brits wrapped up a stellar meet with relay silver to go with 800 free and mixed medley relay gold. Alessandro Miressi of Italy had enough to hold off Russia for bronze. Australia was never higher than fifth and settled for that at 3:29.60.

Olympics: Italy Set Pace in Men’s Medley Relay; U.S. Sneaks in as Seventh Seed

Men’s 400 Medley Relay

  • World record: United States (Aaron Peirsol, Eric Shanteau, Michael Phelps, David Walters), 3:27.28 (2009)
  • Olympic record: United States (Ryan Murphy, Cody Miller, Michael Phelps, Nathan Adrian), 3:27.95
  1. United States (Ryan Murphy, Michael Andrew, Caeleb Dressel, Zach Apple), 3:26.78
  2. Great Britain (Luke Greenbank, Adam Peaty, James Guy, Duncan Scott), 3:27.51
  3. Italy (Thomas Ceccon, Nicolo Martinenghi, Federico Burdisso, Alessandro Miressi), 3:29.17
  4. Russia (Evgeny Rylov, Kirill Prigoda, Andrei Minakov, Kliment Kolesnikov), 3:29.22
  5. Australia (Mitch Larkin, Zac Stubblety-Cook, Matthew Temple, Kyle Chalmers), 3:29.60
  6. Japan (Ryosuke Irie, Ryuya Mura, Naoki Mizunuma, Katsumi Nakamura), 3:29.91
  7. Canada (Markus Thormeyer, Gabe Mastromatteo, Josh Liendo, Yuri Kisil), 3:32.42
  8. China (Yu Jiayu, Yan Zibei, Sun Jiajun, He Junyi), DQ
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