Olympics: Caeleb Dressel Swims 49.71, Third-Fastest Time Ever, in 100 Fly Semifinals; Milak Second at 50.31

Jul 30, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Caeleb Dressel (USA) in the men's 100m butterfly semifinals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Caeleb Dressel -- Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

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Olympics: Caeleb Dressel Swims 49.71, Third-Fastest Time Ever, in 100 Fly Semifinals; Milak Second at 50.31

Caeleb Dressel captured his first Olympic gold medal Thursday morning as he barely held off Kyle Chalmers to claim the crown in the men’s 100 freestyle. Returning to the pool for an event in which he holds the world record and has won the last two world titles, the 100 butterfly, some thought Dressel might take a shot at the world record in the semifinals since that would be his only race of the finals session. As it turned out, Dressel went out in a relatively cruising 23.20, almost a half-second off his world-record pace, but he closed in 26.51 to give the record a scare.

Dressel finished in 49.71, just 0.21 off his own world record of 49.50. Only Dressel has been faster (twice), and that time ranks ahead of the best that Michael Phelps (49.81) or Milorad Cavic (49.95) ever recorded. No other swimmer has ever cracked the 50-second barrier. Dressel beat the Olympic record set just minutes earlier.

The first of two semifinal heats featured Hungary’s Kristof Milak, the Olympic gold medalist already in the 200 fly and widely considered the only man capable of staying close to Dressel in the final. Milak went out in 23.74, 0.01 behind both Russia’s Andrei Minakov and France’s Mehdy Metella, but his impressive underwater work off the turn and acceleration down the stretch helped Milak get to the wall three quarters of a second ahead of his heats.

His time was 50.31, breaking the Olympic record of 50.39 first set by Singapore’s Joseph Schooling on his way to gold at the 2016 Olympics and then tied by Dressel during the morning prelims. Of course, that record would last about five minutes before Dressel took off in the second semifinal. Certainly, Dressel will be tough to beat in the final, but Milak could very well become the fourth member of the sub-50 club.

Meanwhile, one other swimmer broke 51 in this event, Switzerland’s Noe Ponti. The NC State-bound Ponti swam a 50.76, which made him the 14th-fastest performer in the event. Also in position to challenge for the bronze medal in the final will be Bulgaria’s Josif Miladinov (51.06), Russia’s Andrei Minakov (51.11) and Australia’s Matthew Temple (51.12), who qualified fourth through sixth, respectively. Miladinov and Temple have both swum 50-second efforts this year, while Minakov has done so in the past, and he was the silver medalist in the 100 fly at the 2019 World Championships.

Poland’s Jakub Majerski took seventh in 51.24, and Guatemala’s Luis Carlos Martinez was eighth in 51.30, knocking France’s Metella (51.32) out of the final by 0.02.

Finalists:

  1. Caeleb Dressel (USA), 49.71
  2. Kristof Milak (Hungary), 50.31
  3. Noe Ponti (Switzerland), 50.76
  4. Josif Miladinov (Bulgaria), 51.06
  5. Andrei Minakov (Russia), 51.11
  6. Matthew Temple (Australia), 51.12
  7. Jakub Majerski (Poland), 51.24
  8. Luis Carlos Martinez (Guatemala), 51.30