“They Weigh You Down”: Coach Reveals Caeleb Dressel Struggled With Michael Phelps Comparisons

Published 11/22/2021, 9:06 AM EST
USA’s Caeleb Dressel cries while standing with his gold medal on the podium of the Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay Final during the swimming event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 7, 2016. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images)


Ever since Michael Phelps retired from the sport, every successful swimmer has been compared to the American legend. The numerous gold medals, world records, and other contributions outside the sport make him an all-time great. Thus, after his retirement in 2016, the USA swimming team has been looking for someone to replace him. In came Caeleb Dressel.

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Heading to Tokyo Olympics 2020, Dressel’s name became a mainstay inside the US camp. But the obvious comparisons with Phelps put a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the 25-year-old. In a recent interview, his former coach Gregg Troy revealed the pressure he faced to perform in Tokyo.

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Troy spoke how Dressel wanted to be the first Dressel rather than being the next Phelps.

Caeleb Dressel was under immense pressure

Troy is one of the best swimming coaches in the world. He became the head coach of Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics and coached many superstars. In a recent interview, he spoke about the expectations Dressel faced before the Tokyo Olympics. The interviewer asked the coach about the impact that being compared to Phelps had on Caeleb.

“Those outside extenuating circumstances, all the externals, the expectations, man, they weigh you down. They make it really hard and I think that’s one of those things- could he have been faster in Tokyo? I think he could have been faster,” replied Troy.

TOKYO, JAPAN – AUGUST 01: Caeleb Dressel of Team United States reacts after winning the gold medal and breaking the olympic record in the Men’s 50m Freestyle Final on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 01, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

To be mentioned in the same sentence as Phelps is incredible. Dressel’s performances during the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju saw him winning six gold medals and two silver medals during those games. That put him on the map as fans put their expectations on the talented swimmer. Troy spoke about those expectations and how they can have a detrimental effect on swimmers.

“It’s a whole different dynamic. People that haven’t been there and haven’t done it, they don’t understand what it’s like and the pressure goes up every time you’re successful,” said Troy.

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Caeleb won five gold medals in Tokyo Olympics

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During the Tokyo Olympics, Dressel won an astonishing five gold medals in what was a stunning display of swimming. He won both the 50 and 100-meters freestyle, 100-meters butterfly, 4 × 100 meters freestyle, and the 4 × 100 meters medley relay. Moreover, he set a world record during the 100-meter butterfly event.

Gregg, in his interview, stated that he believes Caeleb has the potential to go even faster than he did in Tokyo. The more successful a swimmer becomes, the more pressure that they must face, he added.

TOKYO, JAPAN – AUGUST 01: Caeleb Dressel of Unites States poses after winning Men’s 50m Freestyle Final on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on August 1, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Du Yang/China News Service via Getty Images)

With the Tokyo Olympics 2020 done and dusted, the 2024 Paris Olympics will be the next target for the American. The eyes are on Dressel to repeat his feat. However, he remains grounded about wanting to become the only Caeleb Dressel and not the second Michael Phelps.

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Jacob Gijy

616 articles

Jacob Gijy is a US Sports and NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Gijy finished his Masters in Counselling Psychology and worked in a hospital for 2 years before his passion for sports compelled him to find his way to sports journalism. A fan of the great Tim Duncan, he is always ready to pick up a debate with anyone who does not offer the center the respect he deserves.

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