Resurgent Dressel has new take on young rivals

Caeleb Dressel and Chris Guiliano share a hug after finishing one-two in the 50m freestyle at the US Olympic swimming trials (Sarah Stier)
Caeleb Dressel and Chris Guiliano share a hug after finishing one-two in the 50m freestyle at the US Olympic swimming trials (Sarah Stier)

Caeleb Dressel, on the rise and Olympics-bound again, is ready to lend his hard-won wisdom to young rivals even as he aims to reestablish himself as swimming's preeminent sprinter.

"I think probably early on in my career it was how long can I be dominant," Dressel said after notching his first win of the US Olympic swimming trials in Indianapolis in the 50m freestyle.

The seven-time Olympic gold medallist booked his first individual swim at the Paris Games, having missed out on a defense of his 100m free title from Tokyo with a third-placed finish in the blue-ribbon event in Indy.

Chris Guiliano, 20, won the 100m free -- and also made the Paris team in the 50m and 200m free.

Jack Alexy, 21, threw down an impressive 47.08sec in the 100m free heats before finishing second in the final, and 27-year-old Dressel now finds himself poised to both compete against and mentor his younger US teammates.

"I've been next to them for almost every round of this meet. What can I do to show them love?" Dressel said. "They're actually capable. So I might just be at the age where maybe it's showing these younger guys something that they didn't think they were doing.

"Watching Jack go 47.0, like, I didn't want to lose, but it made me happy. I know how exciting it is to (swim those times).

"There's not a whole lot of people that have done that. So I want to be dominant as long as I can, but there's a little bit of a shift.

"Not to say I'm giving up and I'm trying to get, you know, third place," added Dressel, whose winning 50m free time made him the fourth-fastest in the world this year.

Dressel, who won two relay golds at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, emerged as a superstar with seven gold medals at the 2017 world championships and six at the 2019 worlds.

His five golds at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games included individual triumphs in the 50m and 100m free and the 100m butterfly.

But his perfectionism came with a price, and Dressel stepped away abruptly during the 2022 world championships citing vague health concerns, later speaking candidly of feeling mentally "broken" by the demands he put on himself.

Away from the sport for nine months, Dressel remained a role model for young swimmers who are now thrilled to find themselves heading to the Olympics alongside him.

"Caeleb, he's such a true inspiration," said Guiliano, who is the first US man since Matt Biondi in 1988 to qualify to swim the 50m, 100m and 200m free at the same Olympics.

"I love everything that he represents and everything that he's about."

Added Alexy: "It's awesome. I looked up at Caeleb since he first made the team in 2016 ... and it's really special being on the same Olympic team with someone I looked up to for so many years."