Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Caeleb Dressel sets butterfly world record in busy day, puts 'all my trust in God'

Saturday morning (or Friday night here in the U.S.) was quite busy for star American swimmer Caeleb Dressel, but it exemplified why many consider him the best swimmer in the world.

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The 24-year-old won gold in the 100-meter butterfly, touching in 49.45 seconds to break his own world record by .05. It marked his second individual gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics (he won the 100m freestyle Thursday) and third overall (he was part of the 4x100m relay win on Monday).

But the 100m fly final was just the first of three swims for Dressel in the morning session. In the span of just more than 70 minutes, he also swam in the 50m freestyle semifinals (another event he’s favored to win) and anchored the U.S. in the mixed medley relay (the Americans place fifth in the event’s Olympic debut).

A busy day for sure, but Dressel still has one day left of competition. On Sunday, the final day of swimming in Tokyo, he’ll compete in the 50m freestyle final and the men’s 4x100m medley relay. When he leaves his second Olympics, he could own five more gold medals. He won two relay golds as a 19-year-old in the 2016 Games.

If he wasn’t already easy to spot in a pool because of his prolific talent, Dressel is easy to find because of the sleeve of tattoos on his left arm. At the top, covering his shoulder, is a large eagle. He has said that tattoo was inspired by one of his favorite Bible verses, Isaiah 40:31, which says, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In the past, he’s even written Scripture references on his face.

“It’s the reason I’m in the sport — not just to go fast times, but to inspire people and show them where I find my happiness with what God’s given me,” Dressel said after the 2015 U.S. Nationals, via the Baptist Standard.

Dressel was raised in a Christian home but told the Baptist Standard that he grew in his faith during college at the University of Florida, when he attended Campus Church of Christ in Gainesville. There was a time in high school when he stopped swimming because he was no longer enjoying it, but he eventually returned, and did so with more trust in God.

“Coming out of that, I started swimming again and really just put all my trust in God and knowing that He’s going to take care of everything for me, good or bad,” Dressel told the Baptist Standard in 2016. “I really learned a lot, and I really learned to see the light at the end of the tunnel and trust what God is doing, whether it be a rough point in your life or a top pinnacle in your life. You’ve just got to take pauses and really trust what He’s doing.”

The 50m freestyle final in Tokyo will air at 9:30 p.m ET Saturday, with the men’s medley relay at 10:36 p.m. ET.

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