Tokyo: American Caeleb Dressel is making swimming sexy again and has been described as the “Usain Bolt of the pool” — just don’t call him the new Michael Phelps.
The 21-year-old, who last year became only the second swimmer to win seven gold medals at a single world championships after Phelps in 2007, admits to being flattered by comparisons to his countryman but insists he is his own man.
“What an honour, if people want to make that comparison,” Dressel told AFP at the Pan Pacific championships in Tokyo.
“It doesn’t bother me, but it’s not something I’m striving to be or something that’s crossing my mind day in and day out.”
Dressel joined forces with Phelps in the latter’s final Olympics in Rio two years ago to win gold in the 4x100 metres freestyle relay.
Phelps retired after Rio as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history with 28 medals, a staggering 23 of them gold.
But despite being billed as the next big thing in swimming, Dressel was anxious to play down the hype two years before the 2020 Tokyo Games, where celebrity beckons for the tattooed Florida native.
“I’m a completely different swimmer to him,” said Dressel. “We swim way different events — the only time we really match up is in the 100m fly.”
“It was awesome watching him, there’s no doubt about that,” he added. “I remember Beijing, watching all of his races, he’s certainly someone that was just spectacular for a lot of people, even outside the swimming world.
“Our careers crossed paths for about a year, so it was cool and really an honour.”
Despite his protests, comparisons were made after Dressel broke Phelps’s old championship record to capture Pan Pacific gold in the men’s 100m butterfly on Saturday.
“I had no idea what the record was,” shrugged Dressel, beaten by Australia’s Kyle Chalmers in Friday’s 100m freestyle final.
“All that was on my mind was getting my hands on the wall first,” he added. “I was happy with that, I can’t ask for anything more.”
Dressel returned to the pool later on Saturday to help the US finish first in the 4x100m free, only for them to be disqualified for swimming out of order, gifting gold to Brazil.
He will look to add the Pan Pacific titles to the gold medals he won in the 50m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay later on Sunday, the final day of the four-day Tokyo meet.