Budapest : With Michael Phelps back in retirement, Caeleb Dressel stepped out of his idol’s shadow to match the US legend’s tally of seven golds at the world championships in Budapest.
Dressel became the first swimmer to win three world gold medals in one session on Saturday, then claimed his seventh of the week in the men’s 4x100m medley relay on Sunday to match Phelps’ record tally from the 2007 world championships.
Dressel’s tally includes three individual titles in the 50m, 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly, plus four relays golds in the 4x100m freestyle, 4x100m mixed freestyle, 4x100m mixed medley and Sunday’s 4x100m medley.
It put him level with US legends like Phelps, Ryan Lochte, who won five worlds golds in 2011, and Mark Spitz, who win seven golds at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
“This is probably one of the top-five best swim meets ever by an American male — the other four going to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte,” said the USA’s Olympic backstroke champion Ryan Murphy.
“To be in that company is no small achievement, hopefully this is just the beginning for him and he can have a really great career.”
Dressel’s feat — especially his jaw-dropping treble of golds over 98 minutes on Saturday night — is all the more remarkable given that he was virtually unheard of, even in the swimming community, before these Budapest championships.
“I don’t even know if he went to the Olympics last year? He has definitely taken a really big step this year,” admitted Sweden’s sprint queen Sarah Sjostrom.
Dressel’s performances have been the icing on the cake for the USA, who finished with 38 swimming medals in Budapest — over five times more than nearest rivals Britain, who have seven. Katie Ledecky also made history in Budapest as she finished with 14 world golds in her career to eclipse Missy Franklin, who has 11, as the most decorated female in championships history.
The 20-year-old freestyle queen won five golds, but by her own admission the medal which stood out was her silver in the 200m freestyle — her first defeat in 15 finals at a worlds, spanning three championships.
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