Very marked by the mentally trying Tokyo Olympics, the American star of world swimming Caeleb Dressel has managed to revive his desire to swim, in time for the World Championships which begin on Saturday in Budapest.
With five gold medals, Dressel had established itself as the great attraction of the Olympic Games last summer, beating two world records in the process, in the 100m butterfly and the 4x100m medley relay.
However, his incredible harvest barely harvested, the swimmer had expressed his discomfort, confident how difficult the pressure had been to bear. “There, I want to do everything except swim”, had launched Dressel at the end of the tests.
Like other champions in recent years, from tennis player Naomi Osaka to gym superstar Simone Biles, Dressel, 25, has broken the mental health taboo in sport by speaking openly about her struggles . He even went so far as to share excerpts from his diary.
The American explained that despite his five Olympic crowns, he was actually disappointed that he hadn’t fulfilled his goals. “I wasn’t fair to myself. I had just won five gold medals on the greatest sports ground in the world, and I was thinking that I should have swum faster,” said he recently told Graham Bensinger, an American journalist who regularly collects confessions from great athletes.
– “Completely lost” –
The return to normal life has been complicated for the Floridian, who says he has struggled to find a balance between his daily life and his new status as a pool star.
“Really all I wanted was to lock myself in a room and not talk to anyone,” he said.
“I felt completely lost. I wanted to escape as far as possible from the water, but at the same time the water is one of the places where I feel safest. So it was a moment really difficult. I was really unhappy for several months,” he continued.
Today, after skipping several competitions in the fall and changing coaches, the Olympic champion finally claims to feel better mentally. “I needed time away from it all.”
“At the end of January, I started to feel fit. I’m doing times in training that I’ve never done before. It was a good feeling to feel back,” he said. .
– Two hours, three titles –
In Budapest, he will find the Duna Arena, the swimming pool where his career took a huge turn in 2017. That year, when the swimming world was looking for a successor to Michael Phelps, the titan with 23 Olympic titles, Dressel, then 20 years old, had revealed himself by winning seven world titles. He had even made history by winning three gold medals in less than two hours, in the 50m freestyle, 100m butterfly and the mixed 4x100m medley relay.
From Saturday, he will compete in four individual races, the 50 and 100 m freestyle as well as the 50 and 100 m butterfly, driven as always by the desire to improve.
“My goal in sport is to improve, not to beat opponents,” he explained during a podcast presented by former Australian swimmer Brett Hawke.
In the Hungarian capital, the other announced star of the basin should be the compatriot of Dressel, Katie Ledecky. In the absence of her Australian rival Ariarne Titmus, who preferred to focus on the Commonwealth Games, the seven-time Olympic champion will try to enlarge her collection of world titles, which already has 15 gold medals.
The other headliners of the week could be the Australian Kaylee McKeown, three-time Olympic champion in Tokyo, who could improve her world record in the 100m backstroke, or even the very young Summer McIntosh, 15, a new revelation of the Canadian swimming.