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Caeleb Dressel Returns to Swimming with a Smile on His Face

By: Anna Chuang

On July 1, Caeleb Dressel, the 26-year-old seven-time Olympic Gold Medalist and thirteen-time World Champion in competitive swimming, spoke to the press for the first time since his unexpected withdrawal from swimming at the 2022 World Championships. He didn’t come back to the sport for eleven months, until this May where he swam his first meet of the season in Atlanta, Georgia. He is slowly recovering from his break with determination and a smile on his face.

Dressel did not discuss why he decided to take time away from swimming. He just simply said that he needed to take a break. According to The New York Times, he said, “It was a bunch of things that kind of came crumbling down at once.” He doesn’t regret the break and he doesn’t regret not coming back to the sport any earlier or later. He knew that he could have just never come back at all, and that would have been okay with him too. As stated in Swim Swam, he is proud of his past accomplishments even though he was far away from his personal best times at Atlanta.

Dressel came back to swimming and felt all the things that he had missed. He hated the chlorine before, but he really missed it when he withdrew from the sport. He missed the way his skin will become dry because of training in the pool for hours. According to The New York Times, Dressel said, “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 was happy to regain his enjoyment of the sport. As stated in The New York Times, Dressel said, “I always had a smile on my face actually racing. There is a difference between racing scared because you don’t want to embarrass yourself and then actually enjoying racing. And I haven’t had that enjoyment in quite some time, so it was nice having it back.”

Although most athletes come back feeling insecure about themselves after they have taken a pause from their career, Dressel did not. At the first meet that he came back to in Atlanta, he was smiling even after he was not close to his best time and even joked with his teammates after his races.

He has the attitude of a star. Coming back from pausing the sport he has done all his life with so much happiness, wasn’t the only moment where he was like a bright star in a cloud of darkness. At the post-pandemic Tokyo Olympics, he was able to win five gold medals, even after the world was in such an unstable state. Now, he is determined to get back to where he left off so he can take part in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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