Caeleb Dressel breaks butterfly world record to stay on track for five Olympic golds

American swimmer favourite for the 50m freestyle and also competes in the men's 4x100m medley relay

Caeleb Dressel collected his third gold medal of the Tokyo Olympic Games on Saturday after the American swimmer stormed to the 100m butterfly title.

Dressel, who had already collected the 100m freestyle gold and played a key part in the United States' 4x100m freestyle relay success, delivered a world record swim of 49:45 to edge Hungary's Kristof Milak.

Just 40 minutes later, Dressel posted the fastest time in the 50m freestyle semi-final and will compete in the men's 4x100m medley relay where the USA are among the favourites. Should he clinch two more gold medals for a total haul of five, he would match Michael Phelps's tally from his last Games in Rio and surpass the four golds the American great won in London.

In the first Olympic Games of the post-Phelps era, the USA have endured a disappointing time in the pool compared to their previous dominance. They won 16 gold medals at each of the last two Olympics but head into Sunday's final events on eight.

Katie Ledecky lost her 200m and 400m freestyle crowns to Australian rival Ariarne Titmus but came good in the 800m and 1,500m events, becoming the first female swimmer to win six individual golds.

However, Dressel has lived up to his status as one of the world's leading swimmers and has produced the goods on the grandest of stages.

"Caeleb is a real leader on our team," Ledecky said. "I mean, it was so impressive what he did today swimming three races, and he leads, both in and out of the water.

"He's just an incredible swimmer, it's just amazing to watch him get up on the blocks and race and see him get out with his start to those huge leads.

"I think we all admire his start. But yeah, he just has a great family, really cares about his team mates and is just a really great presence on the pool deck for Team USA."

Like all serial winners, Dressel takes losing hard and he was not pleased with the team's performance in the mixed medley relay where he was left with too much ground to make up on the final leg.

"Fifth place is unacceptable for USA Swimming and we're very aware of that, our standard is gold," he said. "That's what we're always shooting for in every race, and we didn't execute well."

Dressel makes sure he learns from every competition and he has been taking notes during the Olympics to give himself some additional material for his post-Games analysis.

"After the meet, I’ll go back and watch my races. I’ve been journaling throughout the whole meet. Every swim, what I could have done better. Every swim, what I thought I did well," he said.

After a packed Saturday schedule, however, Dressel was unlikely to be going over his notes.

"I’m staying on routine as much as I can," he said. "But I know today was a busy day. I could use a nap and a shower.”

Updated: July 31st 2021, 7:38 AM