Home Sports U.S. Olympic trials: Caeleb Dressel, on long road back to the top of swimming, qualifies in 50 free

U.S. Olympic trials: Caeleb Dressel, on long road back to the top of swimming, qualifies in 50 free

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INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JUNE 21: Caeleb Dressel of the United States watches a preliminary heat of the men's 100m butterfly on day seven of the 2024 US Olympic Team Swimming Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium on June 21 June 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – JUNE 21: Caeleb Dressel of the United States watches a preliminary heat of the men’s 100m butterfly on day seven of the 2024 US Olympic Team Swimming Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium on June 21 June 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Caeleb Dressel will have the opportunity to defend at least one of his individual Olympic gold medals at the Paris 2024 Games.

Dressel won the 50-meter freestyle at the U.S. Swimming Trials on Friday and secured a spot in the event at the Olympics later this summer.

It was Dressel’s second of three finishes this week at testing in Indianapolis. In all three, he is the current Olympic champion. In the first, the 100 freestyle, he finished third, earning a spot on the United States 4×100 relay team in Paris, but narrowly missing out on the chance to defend his gold in the individual event.

However, in the second of three events, the “splash and dash” 50 freestyle, he accelerated to the wall and outpaced all competitors. Dressel finished in 21.41 seconds, 0.28 (a relative eternity in this race) ahead of Chris Giuliano, who qualified in second place.

As his wife, Meghan, celebrated with their months-old baby in her arms in the stands, Dressel pumped his fist and waved to the crowd.

His qualifying Wednesday in the 100 free felt like an equivocal conclusion to his comeback story.

This, on the other hand, seemed emphatic.

Dressel, now 27, won five gold medals in Tokyo. At the world championships the following summer, he won the 14th and 15th world gold medals of his decorated career. But then, with more medals on the table, he withdrew from the competition for unspecified medical reasons. He went months without swimming. He returned to the pool in 2023, but did not make the U.S. team for the world championships that summer. In total, he went approximately 17 months without winning a race.

But throughout 2023 and 2024, he managed to return to the top of his sport. He got his first win last December. He came into tryouts in a good place, mentally, with a smile on his face.

He has not returned to his best level from 2019 or 2021. But he will return to the Olympic Games.

His third and final test at the trials will be the 100 meter butterfly this weekend.

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