Caeleb Dressel Has Finally Returned After Disappearing For Months.
By: Alicia Chen
Caeleb Dressel, an incredible swimmer who specializes in individual medley events, freestyle, and butterfly, has finally returned to the pool after taking a break due to mental health issues.
Dressel, aged 26, a seven-time Olympic medalist, has disappeared for 8 months, and claims to have missed every aspect of his sport. He stated, “I missed every part of it. And that’s how I knew I was ready to get back. Because I didn’t need to--I wanted to.”
He has been crowned as the best short-distance swimmer in the world, which contributed to the confusion people felt when he abruptly disappeared. They could not understand his actions, as Dressel was still young and had a great swimming career. He had not been seen ever since he failed to show up for the 100-meter freestyle at the semifinals during the world championships because of unrevealed medical reasons.
He has not explained his absence on social media, but recently, he announced that he would be competing in the U.S. national championships.
Dressel did not perform as well as many had hoped. His swims in the 50 and 100-meter freestyle, which he had won at the Tokyo Olympics and currently holds the American record for, did not qualify for the championship finals. The event he performed the best in during the meet was the 50-meter butterfly, which landed him in third place but was still too slow to qualify for the world championships.
But, despite the disappointing swims, even the mere act of competing is an accomplishment for Caeleb Dressel, as just a while ago, he wasn’t sure if he could continue his swimming career. Upon being interviewed, he said, “I always had a smile on my face actually racing. And I haven’t had that enjoyment in quite some time, so it was nice having it back.”
He mentioned that his goal is to qualify for the 2024 Olympics. But when asked why he withdrew from swimming for so long, he simply replied that he needed a break from his sport, and that, “The easiest way to put it, my body kept score. There were a lot of things that I shoved down and all came boiling up, so I didn’t have a choice.” r
While he has a long way to go before he reaches his goal physically, the work that has to be accomplished mentally is even harder. Dressel faced a lot of pressure as a short-distance sprinter and needed time to escape from it and focus on himself.
“Mental health is a serious issue, and everybody deals with it differently,” said Anthony Nesty, Caeleb Dressel’s coach. “Sometimes it takes time to heal from that.”
Nesty added, “An athlete like that has a lot on his shoulders, and I wanted him to have everything removed from his shoulders. He needed to focus on him.”
“I think he’s in a good spot,” said Katie Ledecky, a legendary female swimmer who specializes in long-distance freestyle events. I don’t want to speak for him or how he feels about his races, but just what we see on deck every day in practice, what we saw here, he seems happy and that’s all we care about.”
And, Ledecky is right. Ultimately, sports are about enjoyment, not competition.