Caeleb Dressel teared up on the gold medal stand while the national anthem played at the Tokyo Olympics after he won his first individual race at the Games and set a record while doing it.
Dressel, 24, finished the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 47.02 – an Olympic record. He narrowly beat Kyle Chalmers, of Australia, to get the medal. The emotions for the Florida native set in after the race as he spoke with NBC right out of the pool.
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“I don’t know if it’s set in yet,” the American said. “Right now, I’m just kinda …. It’s a really tough year. It’s really hard. So to have the results here … It really came together so I’m happy.”
On the podium, Dressel was seen with his hand over his heart and his eyes filling up with tears.
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He won the first three medals of his career in team relay races – two in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro and one already this time around in Tokyo.
“It is a lot different. I guess I thought it would be, I just didn’t want to admit to it,” he said afterward. “It’s a lot tougher. You have to rely on yourself, there’s no one to bail you out.”
Dressel has been the most dominant American swimmer in the post-Michael Phelps era. He earned seven gold medals in the 2017 World Championships and six gold medals in the 2019 World Championships.
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His gold early Thursday was the second for the U.S. swim team of the day. Bobby Finke won the 800-meter freestyle in the event’s Olympic debut.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.