Caeleb Dressel secures Olympic relay spot; Simone Manuel qualifies for the third Games

INDIANAPOLIS – Seven-time Olympic gold medalist Caeleb Dressel is headed to the Olympic Games in Paris, qualifying Wednesday evening by finishing third in the men’s 100-meter freestyle final in 47.53 seconds in Indianapolis.

Dressel will compete in the 4×100 freestyle relay in Paris as he did not finish in the top two in the 100m freestyle. He has not yet qualified in an individual event, but still has chances in the 50 meter freestyle and 100 meter butterfly later this week.

Chris Guiliano (first), Jack Alexy (second) and Hunter Armstrong (fourth) rounded out the top four finishers in the 100 free, with each qualifying for the 4×100 free relay in Paris.

Dressel took gold in the men’s 100-meter freestyle in Tokyo, where he also won gold medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter butterfly. Dressel has also won gold as a member of the 4×100 freestyle relay and men’s medley relay at both the Rio and Tokyo Games. Every medal he has won at the Olympics so far has been gold.

Yet Dressel is an enigma. He took an eight-month break from swimming from mid-2022 to early 2023, abruptly withdrew from the 2022 world championships and disappeared from the spotlight. And at the 2023 U.S. National Championships, he failed to qualify for the 2023 World Championships; his best result was only fourth place in the 50 meter butterfly. He has talked about how he needed that time away from the sport and how it took him away. Over the past year, the 27-year-old has regained his physical and mental strength, appears to be back in shape and is starting to look like the face of American men’s swimming again.

Earlier Wednesday evening, fellow veteran swimmer and two-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Manuel qualified for the Paris Olympics, her third Games, as part of the 4×100 freestyle relay. She finished fourth, behind Kate Douglass, Torri Huske and Gretchen Walsh. The top four swimmers qualify for the relay.

โ€œIt means the world to me,โ€ 27-year-old Manuel said through tears. โ€œReally, it’s a wonder I’m standing here at all.โ€

Manuel, who was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome ahead of Tokyo, said she was proud of herself for making it to the relay after everything she had been through in recent years after her body broke down. She said it took a long time before she was cleared to return to the pool and train at full strength, leaving her with just 18 months to prepare for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

โ€œAnyone who really knows my journey knows how hard it was,โ€ Manuel said. โ€œI basically started from ground zero to create, in my opinion, the best Olympic team ever in swimming. โ€ฆ This was definitely not the outcome I wanted, but when I really think about how far I’ve come and what mountain I really had to climb.

โ€œI think it’s really important for me to look back and be proud of myself for continuing to fight and believe in myself through this process.โ€

Other qualifiers in Paris on Wednesday included 17-year-old Thomas Heilman, who won the men’s 200m butterfly final. He is the youngest male swimmer to make the Olympic team this year.

According to USA Swimming, Wednesday’s final session also set an attendance record for an indoor swimming meet, with 22,209 fans in Lucas Oil Stadium. The previous record was set on the first day of the event with 20,689 spectators at the venue, which also serves as the home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts.

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(Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images)

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