2020 Tokyo Olympics: Caeleb Dressel Opens Up About Being Compared to Former Olympian Michael Phelps

by Suzanne Halliburton

Coming into the Tokyo Olympics, Americans were anxious for the next great champion. We love the men and women who look good draped in gold.

Now that the swimming is over, how does Caeleb Dressel look wearing the label as the next Michael Phelps? After all, Dressel is leaving the Tokyo Olympics with a nice pile of gold. He’ll have to check six pounds of it in his suitcase when he leaves home for Florida.

Dressel won five gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics. He earned three individual races — the 50- and 100-meter freestyles and the 100 butterfly. He anchored the 4X100 free relay and swam the butterfly leg on the 4X100 medley, the final event of the swimming competition.

“I think comparisons with Michael will always happen because they see one guy win eight medals, then (him),” Dressel said in an interview for the Today show.

(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Then Dressel cracked a joke that probably only elite swimmers and the stat nerds appreciate.

“It was terrible planning on my part,” Dressel said. “I happened to have a great year after he retired, then everyone jumps on me. It’s not fair to Michael, it’s not fair to me.”

Caeleb Dressel Got the Michael Phelps Comparisons Four Years Before Tokyo Olympics

Phelps retired after the 2016 London Games. In all, Phelps won 28 Olympic medals. He’s known as the best Olympic athlete, ever, based solely on his record-total of medals. He set his first world record at age 15. He also was 15 when he made his first of five Olympic teams. Phelps was 31 when he notched his final Olympic medal. And fun fact, it was gold for the American’s 4X100 free relay.

Caeleb Dressel is only 24. He won an Olympic gold in Rio on a relay. And then he prepped for the Tokyo Olympics by winning 13 gold medals at the World Championships in 2017 and 2019. He said he’s giving himself three weeks out of the pool, post Tokyo Olympics, before he starts plans for Paris in 2024. He and his wife, Meghan, may take their honeymoon. Theirs is a sweet swimming love story. They met on their high school swim team.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, Meghan couldn’t make it to the Tokyo Olympics. But Dressel said he still leaned on family members. After all, he refers to Phelps as a big brother.

“I texted him more than my wife at these Games,” Dressel told Today. “I really leaned on him. Why would I not? You know, he always told me, he kept his word. If I needed anything, shoot him a text, give him a call. I do see him as that big brother in the sport.”

Phelps was at the Tokyo Olympics working with the NBC crew. He constantly was around the Olympic swimming venue, offering his support to the American team. He knows most of them.

Dressel said the Tokyo Olympics also taught him something about himself.

“I can handle a lot more than I give myself credit for,” Dressel said. “I am a perfectionist, and I need to give myself more credit at times.”

You can check out the rest of the interview here.