Dressel, Ledecky grab gold as world records tumble in Tokyo

TOKYO (AFP) – Caeleb Dressel set a new 100m butterfly world record to grab his third gold medal in Tokyo yesterday, 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.

United States’ Caeleb Dressel competes in the final of the men’s 100m butterfly swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. PHOTO: AFP

The United States (US) 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 today.

“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 1,500m gold, she added another 800m title after winning at London in 2012 and Rio four years later.

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.