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 won 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.
“That will light some fire under me for the next couple of years,” said Ledecky after losing to Italy’s Federica Pellegrini over 200m.
Sjostrom underlined her status as the world’s best sprinter with freestyle world records over 50m and 100m.
Sjostrom also set a new world record in the semi-finals of the 50m freestyle with a time of 23.67sec bettering the old mark of 23.73sec set by Germany’s Britta Steffen in 2009.
“I’m really happy I could erase one of those textile-suit records,” said Sjostrom.
“A lot of people thought those times from 2009 would be impossible to beat.”
Sjostrom claimed two of the seven individual world records which fell at these world championships.
British lionheart Adam Peaty claimed two in one day when he smashed his own 50m breaststroke in Tuesday’s heats and then again in the evening’s semi-finals when he became the first swimmer to go under 26 seconds.
The 22-year-old was peerless as he defended his 50m and 100m titles, but by his own admission, his thirst for world records is relentless.
He is determined to become the first person to swim the 100m breaststroke under 57 seconds — ‘Project 56’ as he calls it.
“I am already thinking how can I go 25.5 (over 50m), how do I go to 56 territory (over 100m), which is hopefully coming soon,” says Peaty.
Olympic champion Lilly King took both the 50m and 100m breaststroke world records set by Ruta Meilutyte in 2013.
Canada’s Kylie Masse, who set a new world record in the women’s 100m backstroke, of 58.10m was one of four records which fell on Tuesday alone.