Caeleb Dressel: It’s not my goal to beat anybody
US swim star finishes Tokyo 2020 with 5 golds, just wants to fulfil his potential
US swim star Caeleb Dressel rejected comparisons with Olympic greats Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz after claiming his fifth gold medal at Tokyo 2020 yesterday, revealing he was "terrified" by the pressure to perform in Japan.
Dressel ended his campaign with victories in the 50m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay - both in record timings - to become only the fifth swimmer to win at least five gold medals at a single Olympics.
The feat puts the 24-year-old - who also won two relay golds at the 2016 Games in Rio - alongside Americans Phelps, Spitz and Matt Biondi, as well as East Germany's Kristin Otto.
But the Florida-based speed demon said hauling in the records set by the sport's legends was not his motivation.
"For me to have my little stamp on the sport, of course it's special," he said.
"(But) I don't want to take anything away from Michael, I don't want to take anything away from Mark.
"Of course, I'm happy with how I did here. It's not my goal to beat anybody in particular, it's about achieving what I feel my potential is."
US swimmer Robert Finke made it three swimming gold medals for the Americans yesterday after winning the 1500m freestyle in 14min 39.65sec, ahead of Ukraine's Mykhailo Romanchuk (14:40.66) and Germany's Florian Wellbrock (14:40.91).
The Americans still ended the meet on top of the swimming medal table with 30 in total, but their gold count had slipped from 16 at London and Rio to 11 this time around.
Pushing them close were the Australians, who achieved their best ever haul of nine golds and 20 medals overall - eight of their titles won by their astonishing women's team.
Their undoubted star was Emma McKeon, who grabbed her fourth gold to become the first woman to win seven swimming medals at a single Games when she helped Australia to the women's 4x100m medley relay crown, less than 40 minutes after winning the 50m freestyle.
While McKeon said it felt "surreal" to pick up so many medals, Dressel said his overriding emotion was relief after a hectic final session in which he set an Olympic record of 21.07sec in the 50m freestyle then helped the US team smash the medley relay world record.
He also broke his own world record in the 100m butterfly on Saturday in 49.45sec.
While he achieved his goals, with the exception of a fifth place in the 4x100m mixed medley relay, Dressel said he found the Olympic stage more daunting than he expected.
"The Olympics are different, I'll admit that now and stop lying to myself," he said.
"There's so much pressure in one moment. Your whole life boils down to a moment that can take 20 or 40 seconds, how crazy is that?
"I wouldn't tell myself this during the meet, but looking back, it's terrifying."
Dressel said he used his "game face" during competition but the emotions came pouring out when it was finally over and the US won the medley relay in a world record time of 3min 26.78sec, beating Britain by 0.73sec.
Pumping his fists in the air, Dressel embraced his teammates at the poolside and roared with delight.
Earlier, there were no signs of nerves as he lined up for the 50m free final, an event the American has dominated in recent years.
He never looked under threat, confirming his status as the world's fastest swimmer with an Olympic record time
France's Florent Manaudou and Brazil's Bruno Fratus finished 0.48sec and 0.50sec behind him respectively.
While looking forward to competing at the Paris Olympics in 2024, Dressel said his immediate priority was to take a break and spend time with his family.
"I'm a bit over swimming right now... I really appreciated my time here, not because every moment was good, but because from every moment I think I gained experience," he said.
Besides Australia, Britain also enjoyed unprecedented success with four golds - including victory in the inaugural 4x100m mixed medley relay.
Britain's Adam Peaty delivered gold in the 100m breaststroke, but Tom Dean produced a surprise in the 200m free, where he won gold ahead of teammate Duncan Scott.
There were two golds for Africa - Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui's shock win in the men's 400m free and then South Africa's Tatjana Schoenmaker winning in a world record in the women's 200m breaststroke.
Hosts Japan had two golds in the pool to cheer, thanks to Yui Ohashi in the 200m and 400m individual medley while China picked up three golds.
It was a disappointing Games for continental Europe though with Hungarian Kristof Milak's victory in the 200m fly and Russian Evgeny Rylov's double in the backstroke, the only golds. - AFP, REUTERS