World Championships: Caeleb Dressel Successfully Defends 50 Fly Gold; N. Santos, M. Andrew Reach Podium

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Caeleb Dressel -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships: Caeleb Dressel Successfully Defends 50 Fly Gold; N. Santos, M. Andrew Reach Podium

In a butterfly sprint, Caeleb Dressel will always be a threat. Indeed, the 25-year-old got off to his patented powerful start and kept the field at bay to secure a second consecutive world title in the 50 butterfly. On Saturday evening, Dressel qualified second for the final behind Great Britain’s Ben Proud before he led off the U.S. men’s gold-medal-winning 400 free relay, and now he has an individual gold after touching in 22.57. Dressel’s time was two tenths short of his own American record of 22.35, which he set in winning gold at the 2019 World Championships.

The entire field was separated by less than four tenths in the semifinals, and even though Dressel edged ahead to win gold, the next four finishers all came in within eight hundredths of each other. In the end, it was 42-year-old Brazilian Nicholas Santos who got his hands on the wall for silver in 22.78, while American Michael Andrew was one hundredth behind (22.79) for bronze. Trinidad and Tobago’s Dylan Carter (22.85) and Italy’s Thomas Ceccon (22.86) just missed making the podium.

“In this sport, nothing is given,” Dressel said. “I knew my race plan. 18 strokes was my money number, and it was exactly 18 strokes. That’s where I feel most comfortable. Behind the blocks, I’m not nervous. I just don’t want to think about anything.”

The gold medal was Dressel’s 15th career gold and his 17th medal at the World Championships. Dressel has the fourth-most golds in World Championships history, trailing only Michael Phelps (26), Ryan Lochte (18) and Katie Ledecky (17). Since finishing fourth in his first-ever individual race at the World Championships in 2017 (the 50 fly), Dressel has won gold in all eight of his other individual finals. Dressel will be heavily favored in the 50 and 100 freestyle later this week, while the 100 fly figures to be a tough battle against Olympic silver medalist and 200 fly world-record-holder Kristof Milak.

“Feels good to get the first individual [gold] out of the way. It’s always the most nerve wracking. Feel like I executed well. Of course – you hear me say it a million times – it could have been better, but that’s okay,” Dressel said, according to USA Swimming. “Looking forward to the rest of the meet, but looking forward to the day off tomorrow. I’m as good as I can be. Cards are different every single day, so I’m trying to deal with them the best I can. Can’t change how my body feels. Felt good enough today – wouldn’t really change anything and I’m sure I’ll be fine the rest of the meet.”

While Dressel has dominated his first two appearances at the FINA World Championships and is off to a hot start in his third, Santos has been a consistent presence at this meet since first appearing at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, and this was his fourth consecutive Worlds winning a medal in the 50 fly. He previously won silver in 2015 and 2017 and bronze in 2019. Santos has also earned short course world titles in this event in 2012, 2018 and 2021.

“I’m really happy for this medal,” Santos said. “I like this pool. It’s the best one for fast swims. I broke my (short course) world record here in Budapest in one of the World Cups, so I only have good memories. I think this is my last long course World Championships. Maybe I’ll compete in short course, but from now on, I’d like to focus on my private life, my five year-old son.”

Finally, Andrew’s bronze was his first individual medal at a major international long course meet after numerous close calls, including a fourth-place finish by just one hundredth in this event at the 2019 World Championships. Asked about the accomplishment in his post-race television interview, Dressel interrupted. “Oh, I didn’t know that,” the winner said, and he embraced his teammate.

“The time is a bit slower than I expected,” Andrew said. “Still, I’m glad with this medal, my first individual one at the Worlds. Nothing really went wrong it just went like this. Hope to get faster and stronger in the coming days.”

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