When the Tokyo Olympics swimming program finished last weekend, Caeleb Dressel left the pool as a seven-time Olympic medalist, and all of them have been gold.
After being part of winning relay teams at the 2016 Rio Games, the 24-year-old sprinter won five gold medals in six events in Tokyo: individually in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly and two more on the men’s 4×100-meter medley relay and 4×100-meter freestyle relay teams. He’s one of just five swimmers to accomplish such a feat at a single Games, along with Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, Matt Biondi, and Kristin Otto.
But when it was finally over, Dressel opened up about how challenging physically and mentally the Olympics can be on athletes.
After the men’s medley relay officially ended the swimming program, he was surrounded by his teammates on the pool deck and could barely stand. Happy, of course, but absolutely drained.
?? NEW WORLD RECORD SET ??
Ryan Murphy, Michael Andrew, Caeleb Dressel and Zach Apple continue Team USA's gold medal streak in the men's 4x100 relay with a time of 3:26.78 ??August 1, 2021
“This is not easy, not an easy week at all,” he said after his last race, via USA TODAY Sports. “Some parts were extremely enjoyable. I would say the majority of them were not. You can’t sleep right, you can’t nap, shaking all the time. I probably lost 10 pounds. I’m going to weigh myself and eat some food when I get back. It’s a lot of stress we put on the body. …
“It’s not the most enjoyable process but it is worth it. Every part of it is worth it. Just cause it’s bad doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.”
Tuesday on CBS This Morning, Dressel was even more brutally honest about how painful the Olympics can be.
24-year-old Olympic swimmer Caeleb Dressel won 5 #Gold medals in Tokyo, joining the ranks of just a few elite athletes who have accomplished the feat, including Michael Phelps.August 3, 2021
After that aforementioned quote was read back to Dressel, he expanded and said:
“It’s a week of hell, if I’m being quite honest. Being on the podium, of course, is enjoyable, but the majority of what — not just myself, not just swimmers, I think the majority of all athletes — it’s not necessarily fun, the core of the whole process. …
“You go your whole life for one moment that boils down to a race that lasts a couple seconds. If you’re a little bit off that day — I wasn’t I wasn’t perfect in any race. I wasn’t perfect mindset-wise going into any event. Every ready room is different, every year is completely different, and there’s parts of it that suck. But at no point in that quote did I say, none of it was worth it. It’s all a great learning experience. Every part of it, I do enjoy.”
Dressel also addressed the massive pressure he faced to live up to expectations and how that pressure can morph into extra stress. But he said he competes for himself and to push his own potential, rather than being the next Michael Phelps.
He said anyone who wants to challenge that approach can “kick rocks.” And he extended that sentiment to include Simone Biles — who withdrew from several Olympic events to protect her mental and physical health before winning a bronze medal on the balance beam — and athletes everywhere.
Dressel continued on CBS This Morning:
“Pressure’s fine. I can’t do anything about what other people expect me to do. It’s irrelevant. I don’t I don’t really care what people expect me to do at these Games. It’s all about me. It might sound a little selfish, but it’s what I want to accomplish and reaching my potential. Everything else, everybody else’s opinion, they can kick rocks. It doesn’t, shouldn’t, pertain to me. …
“Every athlete handles it different, and for every athlete, no one else’s opinion should matter. It’s up to the individual. So Simone what she did, it was her choice, and it shouldn’t pertain to anyone but her. So I think a lot of people shouldn’t open their mouth if you’re against her. It shouldn’t affect you in any way, shape or form what this one particular athlete is doing.”