Caeleb Dressel set a new 100m butterfly world record to grab his third gold medal in Tokyo Saturday, as Katie Ledecky reinforced her dominance of distance swimming with a third Olympic 800m freestyle title.
Two-time world champion Dressel was always going to be tough to beat, and he exploded from the blocks and turned first, roaring home in 49.45 seconds to shatter his own previous world best 49.50 set in 2019.
Hungarian 200m winner Kristof Milak was second in 49.68 — only the fourth man ever to go under 50 seconds—and Switzerland’s Noe Ponti third.
Dressel is overwhelming favourite to bag his fourth Tokyo gold in the 50m freestyle, after returning to the pool to clock 21.42 in his splash and dash semi-final.
The 24-year-old then remarkably lined up for a third race in the Olympics’ inaugural 4x100m mixed medley final.
But swimming the last freestyle leg, Dressel was unable to reel in an Adam Peaty-led Britain who hit the wall in a new world record 3:37.58 — the fifth global mark set in the Tokyo pool.
The United States finished fifth, denying Dressel the chance to win yet another gold after taking out the 100m freestyle and being part of the triumphant 4x100m freestyle team.
He is expected to race the meet-ending men’s 4x100m medley on Sunday.
“The freestyle was anybody’s race, I knew that going in,” said Dressel.
“For the most part, I thought it was going to be between me and Kristof, so it’s kind of nice when the guy next to you is the guy you got to beat. It took a world record to win.”
He admitted it was tough tackling three races in a session.
“Good swim or bad swim you’ve got to give yourself five minutes to get over yourself and you have to refocus really fast. You have to ignore how your body feels, just move on as quick as you can.”
While Dressel has become the face of the American team since Michael Phelps retired, Ledecky is on a par and she lived up to her billing yet again.
Despite losing her 200m and 400m crowns to Australian Ariarne Titmus, she remains the undisputed queen of the longer distances.
Having already cleaned up the inaugural 1500m gold, she added another 800m title after winning at London in 2012 and Rio four years later.
Class of her own
The 24-year-old led all the way to touch in 8:12.57 and outpace Titmus, who clocked a personal best 8:13.83 to earn silver ahead of Italy’s Simona Quadarella.
“She (Titmus) made it tough and so it was a lot of fun to race and I just trusted myself, trusted I could pull it out and swim whatever way I needed to,” said Ledecky, who revealed she planned to keep going potentially up to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
“I’m at least going to ‘24, maybe ‘28 we’ll see,” she said.
She leaves Tokyo with gold over 800m and 1500m and silver in the 400m and 4x200m relay.
Titmus wasn’t too disappointed.
“In the 800 when she’s pretty much in a class of her own so over the moon to be on the podium,” she said.
Meanwhile, Australian backstroke star Kaylee McKeown added the 200m title to her 100m crown in an eye-popping 2:04.68 ahead of Canada’s Kylie Masse, whom she also edged into silver in the 100m final.
Seasoned Australian campaigner Emily Seebohm took bronze in her fourth Olympics.
In the mixed relay’s Olympic bow, the British team of Kathleen Dawson, Peaty, James Guy and Anna Hopkin came out on top.
They lowered the previous world record of 3:38.41 set by China last year, with the Chinese second and Australia third.