Tokyo Flashback: Caeleb Dressel Sets World Record in 100 Butterfly To Win Gold

Jul 29, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Caeleb Dressel (USA) celebrates after winning the men's 100m freestyle final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

Tokyo Flashback: Caeleb Dressel Sets World Record in 100 Fly To Win Gold

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.

The question, after tying an Olympic record in prelims and breaking it in semifinals, was not necessarily if Caeleb Dressel would win gold in the 100 butterfly Saturday morning at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The query was if the American superstar would become the first man to set a world record at these games.

He got it done, despite a long finish and a long wall, clocking in at 49.45 to set a world record and win the gold. Kristof Milak surged to silver in 49.68 seconds, the European record. Third was Noe Ponti of Switzerland in 50.74 ahead of the pack.

“Really fun race to be a part of,” Dressel said two swims later. “I’m sure it was fun to watch for y’all, which is good for the sport. It was well executed. My body wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. That’s just the body I was given on this day. Felt better yesterday for the fly, but it’s fine. I knew what I had to do to execute. But it’s fine.”

It’s no slight on Milak, the world-record holder in the 200 fly who won gold in that event. The Hungarian youngster has the kind of poise and stroke to become a star in the discipline for the next decade, and possesses a pure butterfly stroke that is a work of art over 200 meters.

But Milak doesn’t yet possess the raw turn of savage speed that Dressel has. Few do, in any stroke. And the pair etched a special race in the final.

Caeleb Dressel was long into the wall at the turn, though he still turned first in 23.00, slower than the world record pace when he went 49.50. Milak was second, even with Andrei Minakov of Russia.

Milak came back in the fastest 50 split at 26.03, but Dressel’s 26.45 was no slouch.

“What a close race, and two of the fastest times in history,” Dressel said. “You don’t get that very often. So to be a part of that is really special. Kristof’s a young kid – I mean, I am too; I guess I’m considered one of the older ones now – but that event’s only going to get faster, and I’m aware of that.”

The final featured an unusual collection of nations represented. Bulgaria has never won a men’s Olympic swimming medal (and just three on the women’s side, none since 1988) yet 18-year-old Josif Miladinov was there. Ponti got just Switzerland’s third ever Olympic swimming medal, men or women. Jeremy Desplanches got medal No. 2 with bronze in the 200 individual medley on Friday. And Luis Martinez’s representation of Guatemala makes all kinds of national and regional history. He was seventh. Minakov landed fourth.

Few were as surprised by Ponti’s ascent as the 20-year-old himself.

“It is really a dream come true, I’ve never felt this way before,” he said. “I think I’m dreaming – it’s like living a dream. Before this Olympics the goal was to make the semifinal. What can I say? I’m speechless, it’s unbelievable.”

Men’s 100 Butterfly

  • World Record: Caeleb Dressel, United States, 49.50 (2019)
  • Olympic Record: Caeleb Dressel, United States, 49.71 (2021)
  1. Caeleb Dressel, United States, 49.45
  2. Kristof Milak, Hungary, 49.68
  3. Noe Ponti, Switzerland, 50.74
  4. Andrei Minakov, Russia, 50.88
  5. Matthew Temple, Australia, 50.92
  6. Jakub Majerski, Poland, 50.92
  7. Luis Martinez, Guatemala, 51.09
  8. Josif Miladinov, Bulgaria, 51.49
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

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x