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Interview: Caeleb Dressel is an Olympic champion in the pool and in life

The world’s fastest swimmer, Caeleb Dressel, chatted with Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos about his experience at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, being a proud Florida Gator, and the upcoming third season of the International Swimming League (ISL), where he will be competing once again for the Cali Condors.

USA's Caeleb Dressel celebrates winning Olympic gold in the 100m freestyle. — Photo: © AFP
USA's Caeleb Dressel celebrates winning Olympic gold in the 100m freestyle. — Photo: © AFP

The world’s fastest swimmer, Caeleb Dressel, chatted with Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos about his experience at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, being a proud Florida Gator, and the upcoming third season of the International Swimming League (ISL), where he will be competing once again for the Cali Condors.

American track and field legend Jesse Owens once said: “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” Caeleb Dressel is an individual and athlete that embodies this wise quote by the late track and field legend.

Tokyo Summer Olympic Games

At the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Dressel won five gold medals for Team USA, and he set two world records (100 meter butterfly and as part of the 4×100 meter medley relay) and two Olympic records (50 meter freestyle and 100 meter freestyle), thus bringing his career Olympic total medal count to seven gold medals (he previously won two gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro). “That felt great, executing as best that I could while I was there. It wasn’t a perfect meet but I knew what the task was at hand: representing the U.S. and having the stars and the stripes on my cap,” he said.

“You know what the standard is to perform at a world stage, and it’s exciting,” he added. “There were a bunch of high points and low points in the meet, but I went with each task that was at hand, and I learned throughout the way, and I ticked off each box along the way. It was a brutal seven to eight days, but it was very exciting.”

Hearing the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, played in his honor at the Tokyo Olympic Games for each gold medal win was an incredible moment. “That was one of the most surreal moments in these Olympic Games: being able to see your country’s flag above all the other flags, hearing that national anthem, and being able to share it with your teammates, coaches, family, and your country. It was such a special moment,” he said.

He learned a great deal about himself through the process and the journey. “This was a brutal process,” he said. “I performed well at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships, so I was tagged as the guy leading up to it, and I had that in the back of my head. I feel like I did a good job in giving myself credit where credit was due throughout these Olympic Games.”

“This sport has taken me to so many different countries and different places. I have seen a lot of people that are different than me but it’s all really special,” he added. “The world is a beautiful place, and swimming has shown me that. I didn’t take this moment for granted and I knew what was at stake here, and what the real goal was coming into these Olympic Games. I feel I did a good job of not passing the little things along the way.”

4×100 meter medley relay race world record

For Dressel, the men’s 4×100 meter medley relay race was a really memorable race. “I’ve always dreamed of being on a relay race with Ryan Murphy, so to do it in a gold medal and a world record fashion meant a lot. I looked up to Ryan so much. I’ve known him since we were kids, he has always been talented and dedicated to the craft,” he said.

“Also, having Michael Andrew at his first Olympic Games, and Zach Apple to anchor that relay was great. There was so much riding on that moment with two rookies and two captains and that’s why Team USA is so special. We were here to race, we were here to step up, and everybody did that. It was definitely the cherry on top of everything,” he added.

Co-captain of the men’s U.S. Olympic Swimming Team

He was honored to be a co-captain of the Men’s U.S. Olympic Swimming Team along with Ryan Murphy. “Being able to share the title as captain with Ryan Murphy, and having that last relay race come together as perfect as it did just meant the world,” Dressel said.

“The honor and the pressure of being team USA captain is far above any other thing I have ever been selected for. The whole team voted for me for this, and I didn’t even vote for myself for it. Having the honor of that captain title is something that I will be proud of for the rest of my life,” he said.

Caeleb Dressel
Caeleb Dressel. Photo Credit: Mike Lewis, USA Swimming

Dressel, a proud Florida Gator

He shared that he is a proud Florida Gator that is representing the excellence and legacy of the University of Florida (UF). “When I committed to UF, I didn’t want Coach Gregg Troy to make me the best sprinter that I could be, I wanted him to make me the best swimmer that I could be, and he stayed true to that,” he said.

Dressel tips his hat to coach Gregg Troy

“Here we are eight years later, and Coach Troy has stayed true to that. It has been such an honor working with the guy, and I was happy that I could do my part to show the world how great of a coach and person he really is.” He always had a Plan B even during a pandemic, which is something that he never had to deal with. He has produced some of the best of the best,” he said about his distinguished swimming coach Gregg Troy.

“Coach Troy has taught me that there is more to life than swimming,” Dressel said about the best advice that he was ever given. “I really enjoy swimming, I love what this sport has offered me, but if you won a gold medal or broke a world record, who really cares? If you are not learning something about yourself in moments like that or during the tough times, then you are wasting your time. Overall, I think there is more to life than just swimming.”

Growing up in Florida has played a major part in his upbringing and has helped mold him into the person that he is today.

ISL Season 3 with the Cali Condors

Dressel is looking forward to competing for ISL Season 3 with the Cali Condors with Olympian Jason Lezak as his General Manager (GM), and Jeff Julian as the new Head Coach. “I am looking forward to it, getting back into shape, and racing,” he said. “It is still so cool that I get to swim under Jason Lezak as my GM, I am never going to get tired of that. Also, Jeff [Julian] is the man.”

“I am excited about it and looking forward to it, especially to see the team camaraderie again, that will never get old,” he added. “The ISL will give me the opportunity to get back into race shape again. Every part of the team is great, you get to meet new people along the way. This is what makes the Cali Condors so special, you really do have the team camaraderie.”

Speaking of ISL Season 3, CBS Sports will be airing the ISL competition on Sunday, August 29 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST live on CBS, and on Saturday, August 28 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST on the CBS Sports Network.

When asked which area he would like to improve himself on this ISL season, he said, “ISL is about racing. If I can do that, I will walk away very happy. Racing is racing, there are no excuses and I am looking forward to it.”

He spoke highly about working with legendary coach and Hall of Famer Jonty Skinner last ISL season, where the Cali Condors were named winners of the ISL championship title. “Jonty was a rival for college because he was the Alabama coach. He is funny and he is very technical. It was fun to pick his brain on things and get some insights. Jonty was fun to work with,” he recalled.

Dressel compliments good rival Kyle Chalmers

Australian swimmer and Olympic rival Kyle Chalmers had recently told Digital Journal that he and Dressel are “great mates” and Dressel praised him for “pushing him every step of the way,” hence they get the best results out of each other. Dressel reciprocated the complimentary remarks towards Chalmers and he applauded the Aussie’s sportsmanship.

“I can’t speak highly enough of Kyle [Chalmers]. He is such a great guy, he is such a great competitor, and he offers his best every time he steps up on the blocks, and he is certainly the guy I had my eye on any time I was racing,” Dressel said.

“Even though Kyle had shoulder surgery and heart surgeries, he is just so consistent, and he is so good at executing every single race no matter the circumstances. If you want to learn the best way to swim the 100 meter freestyle, watch Kyle, don’t watch me. His execution and techniques are just beautiful, and he is so strong in the water, off the blocks, and off the turns,” Dressel elaborated.

“Kyle was on my mind every day in practice and he has definitely helped me get better. I hope I have made him better since he has certainly made me better,” he added.

‘Piece by Piece Live with Caeleb Dressel’

His virtual course, “Piece by Piece Live with Caeleb Dressel” was well-received. It was an 11-part online program that was designed to help swimmers and athletes with their mental game, motivation, technique, goal-setting, and health and fitness. “I very much enjoyed it and I definitely want to run another one soon with even more people and more content. That would be really great,” he said.

In this interactive online webinar, Dressel revealed some of the secrets that have catapulted him to achieve success in his athletic career and in life. “I really liked the feedback, the questions, and I liked the fact that it gave people an insight of the things I actually do, and how I work mentally. It has been really special to be able to share that with people.”

Favorite Strokes in Swimming

He acknowledged that he loves racing all of the strokes, even though he may be better in freestyle and butterfly. “I like racing the individual medley (IM) and I like racing breaststroke, they all offer the challenges,” he said. “That the biggest thing about the sport of swimming: the challenges that it offers and every stroke does that.”

Sponsors

His sponsors include Speedo, NOBULL, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Comcast, the SPIRE Institute, Omega, Mad Rabbit, Reese’s, NordicTrack, Google, and Grubhub, among others. “It has been a busy year this year, and the sponsors put pressure on me as well,” he admitted. “I want to do my part for them and make them proud. I just want to represent myself the best that I can. For me, it’s about pushing myself as far as I can and wanting to perform well. I am forever grateful to them.”

“I’ve been swimming since I was five years old, and to be able to make a living out of it is awesome. 20 years ago people don’t get this opportunity, so I am in the right place at the right time with the right people in my life and the right sponsors,” he added.

Dressel is pleased with the way the “Minions” commercial came out. “Initially, I didn’t want to do a Minions shoot but it turned out so well,” he said. “They did it way too good.”

“In fact, all of the commercials I did were fun,” he said. “The Toyota one was really cool, they filmed that one in Gainesville, Florida, and that was pretty sweet.”

Dressel, the SPIRE Ambassador

Dressel serves as a Swim Ambassador for the SPIRE Institute, along with Olympians Elizabeth Beisel and Ryan Lochte. “SPIRE has been great,” he said. “Having them back me in these Olympic Games, having that support and that extra home honestly is special. I need to make a trip to SPIRE, and say hi to the kids there and say hi to all of the people. They certainly supported me and I owe them.”

Growing up, Dressel noted that he had different swimmers that he liked, and he had great words about 12-time Olympic medalist swimmer Ryan Lochte. “I’ve always looked up to Ryan [Lochte],” he said. “I love how he carries himself and the biggest thing is how he interacts with the younger generation. That’s something that I have definitely learned and taken from him.”

He continued, “Ryan will spend time with any amount of kids, he will sign anything and he will take pictures. Ryan will do it all, he has wisdom in the sport and he really helped me this year, even in training. He pushed me more than anyone ever has. Ryan has a big heart, and he is a great guy, and a great person.”

Jane, his black Labrador

Dressel enjoys spending time with his black Labrador Jane, who has become a social media phenom in her own right. “People love her,” he said. “People absolutely love Jane, and I take her everywhere I go. I’ve even taken her up to the pool a couple of times, she likes it.”

Success

Dressel defined the word success as “working towards something day in and day out that you can be happy with when you look in the mirror, whether it’s one task that you complete throughout the day, then that’s a successful day.”

“Success is taking your natural talent and turning it into purpose,” he said. “I think natural talent guides purpose. As long as you take every outlet and opportunity to maximize what your potential is, then that’s success.”

To learn more about Olympic champion Caeleb Dressel, check out his official website, and follow him on Instagram.

Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 18,000 original articles over the past 16 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a six-time consecutive "Best of Long Island" winner, and in the past three years, he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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