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Olympic swimming ends with splashy new records, US gold

Caeleb Dressel wins 5th Olympic gold medal
Caeleb Dressel, of United States, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's...
Caeleb Dressel, of United States, celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men's 100-meter butterfly final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.(Source: AP Photo/David Goldman)
Published: Jul. 31, 2021 at 5:45 PM AKDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2021 at 9:13 PM AKDT
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TOKYO (AP) — Caeleb Dressel finished off his gold rush at the Tokyo Olympics with two more dazzling swims. The guy who dreads all the attention won’t be able to escape it now.

He’s one of the greatest Olympians ever.

The 24-year-old Floridian captured his fourth and fifth gold medals of the Tokyo Games on Sunday, while Australia’s Emma McKeon put her own remarkable stamp on the record book by winning a staggering haul of hardware.

McKeon became the first female swimmer and second woman in any sport to claim seven medals at one Olympics. Four of them were gold, the other three bronze.

Dressel was perfect in the events he had a chance in, capping off his stunning week in the final race at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre by putting the Americans ahead to stay in the 4x100 medley relay on their way to a world record.

“I’m proud of myself. I feel like I reached what my potential was here at these games,” Dressel said. “It was just really fun racing.”

He doesn’t plan to savor his triumph for long — which is right on par for a guy who said a few days ago that “swimming was a lot more fun when no one knew who I was.”

They certainly know who he is now.

“I give myself a pat on the back and then I just want to go home, put it away and move forward,” Dressel said.

He also cruised to a relatively easy victory Sunday in the 50 freestyle, pushing him into a truly elite club of swimmers who won at least five gold medals at one games.

Michael Phelps did it three times, of course, highlighted by his record eight golds at the 2008 Beijing Games.

There’s also Mark Spitz (seven golds in 1972), East German Kristin Otto (six golds in 1988) and Matt Biondi (five golds, also in ‘88).

Many of those swimming greats come up again to provide some perspective on McKeon’s performance in Tokyo.

Phelps, Spitz and Biondi are the only male swimmers to capture seven medals overall at an Olympics.

The only other woman to win seven — in any sport — was Soviet gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya, who claimed two golds and five silvers at the 1952 Helsinki Games.

“It still feels very surreal,” said McKeon, a 27-year-old from Brisbane. “It’s going to take a little bit to sink in. I’m very proud of myself.”

Mirroring Dressel’s final day, McKeon won the 50 free and took the butterfly leg on the Aussies’ winning effort in the women’s 4x100 medley relay.

The only event Dressel failed to win all week was the new 4x100 mixed medley relay, though that was no fault on his own.

In a race featuring two men and two women, the Americans tried a different lineup than anyone else, which left Dressel more than 8 seconds behind when he took over on the anchor freestyle leg.

Not even Dressel could make up such a daunting deficit, though he did manage to pull the Americans up to fifth.

Otherwise, his time in Tokyo was perfect.

A win in 4x100 free relay. A world record in the 100 butterfly. A victory in the 100 freestyle.

The final morning at the pool started with another romp in the 50 free — Dressel’s third individual title of the games.

After diving in, he used his dolphin-like underwater technique to pop out of the water with the clear lead, just as he always does. In a race usually decided by a few hundredths of a second, he touched a half-body length ahead of the field in an Olympic record of 21.07 seconds.

When he saw his time and, more important, the “1” beside his name, he splashed the water and flexed his bulging arms.

In the men’s medley — a race the men have never lost at the Olympics —the Americans were trailing two other teams when Dressel dived in for the butterfly.

Just like that, he blew by Britain and Italy with a blistering leg of 49.03, more than a second faster that anyone else.

Zach Apple made the lead stand up on the freestyle to give the Americans a world record of 3 minutes, 26.78 seconds -- eclipsing the mark of 3:27.28 they set at the 2009 Rome world championships in rubberized suits.

Ryan Murphy and Michael Andrew joined Dressel and Apple to keep the unbeaten streak alive for the U.S. men.

McKeon completed her own sweep of the freestyle sprints, touching in 23.81 to add the 50 title to her victory in the 100.

In the medley relay, McKeon entered truly rarified territory. She took the butterfly leg before Cate Campbell anchored the Aussies to a victory over the two-time defending champion Americans.

“I don’t know how she does it. I’m exhausted,” said Kyle Chalmers, one of the McKeon’s teammates. “To win one gold medal or an Olympic medal, it’s very, very special. We’re lucky to have her on the team.”

In keeping with the theme of the day, Bobby Finke pulled off his own sweep in the two longest freestyle races.

With another strong finishing kick, Finke became the first American man in 37 years to win the 1,500 freestyle. He added to his victory in the 800 free, a new men’s event at these games.

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Paul Newberry is an Atlanta-based national writer and sports columnist covering his 14th Olympics. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and his work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

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