Relay Dressel rehearsal goes swimmingly for Caeleb

Swim star helps US to 4x100m free relay gold ahead of individual events

US swimming star Caeleb Dressel kicked off his bid for up to seven Olympic titles with his first gold medal of the Tokyo Games yesterday, spearheading the United States to the 4x100m freestyle relay crown.

The 24-year-old limbered up for his three individual events with a powerful 47.26sec opening leg to set up his teammates, who brought it home in the third-fastest time ever.

Zach Apple touched in 3min 8.97sec after Dressel's start was followed by sizzling swims from Blake Pieroni and Bowen Becker, with Italy (3:10.11) and Australia (3:10.22) in the minor placings.

The US, who have won 10 of the past 13 men's 4x100m relay golds, were competing without Michael Phelps for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and Dressel acknowledged they had a point to prove.

"It feels great," he said. "We knew we had a huge target on our back. It feels nice, I'd say we dominated that pretty well.

"We're never going to doubt ourselves, that's how Team USA works. We had a couple of people rule us out and we're never going to take that."

Adding that it was a great team effort, Dressel said: "It's a relay for a reason, there's four guys for a reason, it's certainly not just one guy."

It was a perfect Tokyo bow for Dressel, who will tackle three individual events - the 50m and 100m freestyle and the 100m butterfly.

He is the two-time reigning world champion in all three and the 100m fly world-record holder.

There are also a possible four relays on his card as he stands poised to cement an Olympic legacy that began when he earned two relay golds in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Phelps' dazzling eight golds in eight events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics eclipsed the record seven swimming golds won by Mark Spitz in Munich in 1972.

American Matt Biondi won five golds, a silver and a bronze in Seoul in 1988.

Another swim star also stamped his mark at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre yesterday.

Adam Peaty labelled his achievement in becoming the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title an "immortal moment" after claiming gold in the 100m breaststroke.

Peaty lived up to his billing as the overwhelming favourite by powering to the line in 57.37sec, ahead of Dutchman Arno Kamminga (58.00), the only other swimmer besides Peaty to ever go under 58 seconds.

Italy's Nicolo Martinenghi took bronze in 58.33.

It is now seven years since Peaty was last beaten in the event, a run that includes his gold in Rio 2016, when he broke the world record in the heats and then again in the final.

"It doesn't matter what happens, these moments are immortal," Peaty said, after his latest Olympic triumph.

"I will take these moments for the rest of my life." - AFP