U.S. Coach of the Year: Gregg Troy Guided Caeleb Dressel to Olympic Stardom

Swimming World July 2019 - Special Sets - Caeleb Dressel and Gregg Troy

U.S. Coach of the Year: Gregg Troy Guided Caeleb Dressel to Olympic Stardom

During his high school years in Jacksonville, Caeleb Dressel was already one of the most talented sprinters in the country. Even before he became a Florida Gator, he was the only 18-and-under swimmer to ever swim an 18-second 50 freestyle, and he had the markings of a talented sprinter capable of developing into a standout international performer. But then, Dressel took a lengthy break, and his future in the sport was in question. He was not sure if he was actually going to swim for Florida after all.

But when Dressel did arrive in Gainesville, he began a partnership with coach Gregg Troy that produced seven years of pure greatness. Thanks to Dressel’s work ethic and Troy’s guidance, Dressel went on to levels of success that were nearly unprecedented.

Dressel made his first Olympic team in 2016, following his sophomore year of Florida, and he led off the U.S. men’s gold-medal-winning 400 free relay effort. That was just the beginning. His last two years of college swimming were legendary as he produced a 17-second 50-free free, a 42-second 100-yard fly and a mind-boggling 39.90 in the 100-yard free. Arguably most impressive was when Dressel broke American records in the 200-yard IM and 100-yard breast at the SEC Championships during his senior season. Troy saw that Dressel had the talent to be more than just a sprinter, and Dressel was willing to put in the work, and that resulted in history as he held five short course yards American records for a stretch.

Internationally, Troy helped Dressel become the world’s dominant sprinter at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. Dressel won a record-tying seven gold medals at the 2017 Worlds and then a record-breaking eight total medals in 2019, the latter meet coming after Troy had retired from college coaching to focus on guiding Dressel and a group of professionals.

That set up 2021, when Dressel would validate himself as the world’s best swimmer on the Olympic stage. Troy had plenty of experience with big-name performers taking on ambitious goals at the Olympics; after all, he had been Ryan Lochte’s coach for the majority of Lochte’s elite career. Troy had been there as Lochte aimed to dethrone rival Michael Phelps in the IM events and Aaron Peirsol in the 200 back at the 2008 and 2012 Games.

Lochte is undoubtedly one of history’s greatest swimmers, and his longevity with four Olympics speaks for itself. But in Tokyo, Dressel’s performance surpassed anything Lochte ever did at an Olympics. Dressel won three individual golds, in the 100 freestyle, the 100 butterfly (in world-record time) and the 50 freestyle, joining only Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps as winners of that many events in one Games. Lochte, meanwhile, never won more than one individual gold at an Olympics.

On some level, Dressel and Troy was an unconventional pairing. Dressel was known for his sprint skills, although now we know he is capable of so much more than drop-dead racing, while Troy was known as a high-volume coach. But the match worked beautifully, and thanks to their collective efforts, Dressel has treated the world to historic performances at the biggest meets year after year.

Following Tokyo, Dressel chose to train again with the Florida college program under head coach Anthony Nesty, who swam for Troy at Bolles School and a longtime Troy assistant. The timing of the change made sense following the Olympics, and Nesty was a natural fit since he had worked with Dressel in the past and he had the likes of Kieran Smith, Bobby Finke and now Katie Ledecky working under his tutelage.

Dressel will surely be able to keep pushing his limits in the coming years, but as we reflect on the Olympic year, we have to regard the now-completed Dressel-Troy swimmer-coach partnership as one of the best in swimming history.