Olympics: Caeleb Dressel Takes Care of Business in 50 Free Semifinals, Claims Top Seed in 21.42

Jul 31, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Caeleb Dressel (USA) after the men's 50m freestyle 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 Takes Care of Business in 50 Free Semifinals, Claims Top Seed in 21.42

Saturday morning in Tokyo, the United States’ Caeleb Dressel set the second individual world record of his career as he claimed Olympic gold in the 100 butterfly. And just 40 minutes later — and less than 10 minutes after receiving his gold medal from the fly — Dressel was back in the pool for the semifinals of his third and final individual event, the 50 freestyle. Dressel tied his American record in this event at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month with his 21.04 (a time that ranks him third all-time behind Brazil’s Cesar Cielo and France’s Fred Bousquet). In Friday night’s prelims in Tokyo, he broke the Olympic record with a time of 21.32.

But Dressel had more on his mind than simply “go” in this qualifying race. He will participate in the mixed 400 medley relay as the anchor swimmer for the United States, scheduled for 27 minutes after the 50 free semifinal. So he was not eager to burn out in this race. But he used his signature phenomenal, explosive start to get ahead of the heat, and then he did just enough. Dressel touched in 21.42 before nodding his approval at the time, implying that there was still something in the tank for the task at hand.

Dressel has competed in three races in one session twice before on the international level, at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships, when he captured 50 free, 100 fly and mixed 400 free relay gold medals in succession. But this 50 free was just a semifinal, so he could lay off just a bit and take his shot in Sunday’s final.

“I knew I had to get top eight, so that was a little bit of an easier feat than trying to win the gold medal,” Dressel said of the first two legs of his Saturday double.

Meanwhile, in the first semifinal heat, France’s Florent Manaudou touched first in 21.53, moving him to fifth in the world this year. Manaudou was the shocking Olympic gold medalist in the event in 2012, and he had the fastest time of the meet at the 2016 Games, but he was touched out by 0.01 by American Anthony Ervin in that final. Manaudou, now 30, retired immediately after Rio but returned in late 2019 to compete in the new International Swimming League. But this is Manaudou’s first major long course championships since Rio.

Manaudou beat Brazil’s Bruno Fratus by 0.07, and Fratus recorded a time of 21.60. The Brazilian ended up tied with Greece’s Kristian Gkolomeev, who finished second behind Dressel in the second semifinal, and that duo will be the equal third seed for the final. Behind them, Great Britain’s Ben Proud and the USA’s Michael Andrew tied for fifth in 21.67. Both have been quicker this year, as Proud ranks third in the world in 21.42 and Andrew fourth in 21.48.

Six of the swimmers in this 50 free are in their first final of the week in Tokyo, with the exceptions of Dressel and Andrew, each qualified for their third events. Dressel has already won gold in the 100 free and 100 fly, while Andrew was fourth in the 100 breast and fifth in the 200 IM.

Italy’s Lorenzo Zazzeri finished in 21.75 to earn the seventh seed for the final, while the Netherlands’ Thom De Boer claimed eighth in 21.78. That denied the Russian Olympic Committee’s Kliment Kolesnikov a potential spot in his thrid final of the meet as he and 37-year-old Brent Hayden tied for ninth in 21.82.

In a big surprise, the Russian Olympic Committee’s Vladimir Morozov, who ranks second in the world behind Dressel in 21.41, ended up last in the first semifinal in 22.25, finishing 16th overall.

Finalists

1. Caeleb Dressel (USA), 21.42
2. Florent Manaudou (France), 21.53
3. Bruno Fratus (Brazil), 21.60
3. Kristian Gkolomeev (Greece), 21.60
5. Ben Proud (Great Britain), 21.67
5. Michael Andrew (USA), 21.67
7. Lorenzo Zazzeri (Italy), 21.75
8. Thom de Boer (Netherlands,), 21.78

Kliment Kolesnikov (Russia), 21.82

Brent Hayden (Canada), 21.82

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