Triple play: U.S. swimmer Caeleb Dressel wins three golds in one night at world championships

The U.S. team of Caeleb Dressel, from left, Nathan Adrian, Blake Pieroni and Townley Haas show off their gold medals after winning the 400-meter relay at the swimming world championships in Budapest, Hungary, on July 23, 2017.
(Tibor Illyes / EPA)

Caeleb Dressel became the first swimmer to win three gold medals on a single night at the world championships Saturday.

The newest American star pulled off the stunning triple play by racing three times over the course of about two hours and winning every time.

He started with a victory in the 50-meter freestyle, came back about a half-hour later to nearly break Michael Phelps’ world record in the 100 butterfly, and closed the night by leading off a world-record performance in the mixed 400 freestyle relay.


“Man, that was a lot of fun,” the 20-year-old Floridian said.

Dressel now has six gold medals in the championships, putting him in position to tie Phelps’ record of seven at the 2007 worlds in Melbourne, Australia. He will close the meet Sunday night on the 400 medley relay team.

“Two more laps to go,” Dressel said with a smile.

He even managed to overshadow Katie Ledecky, who won her fifth gold medal of the meet by cruising to victory in the 800 free. Still, Budapest will be remembered as a bit of a disappointment for the star of the 2016 Olympics, who settled for silver in the 200 free and didn’t come close to breaking any of her personal bests.

Ledecky won the 800-meter race in 8 minutes, 12.68 seconds, which was nearly eight seconds off her world record at last summer’s Rio Games.

“I’ve never walked away from a season completely satisfied, even last year,” she said. “I can really take what I’ve learned and use it moving forward. It gets me really excited. If that was my bad year for the next four years, then the next couple years are going to be pretty exciting.”

Dressel has emerged as the breakout performer of the championships, with a bit of help from the relatively new mixed relays. Two of his golds came in events that feature men and women on the same team.

The Americans romped to another world record in the 400 mixed free relay. Dressel led off with blistering time of 47.22 for the first 100 — even more remarkable given his grueling night — and his three teammates took it from there.

Nathan Adrian, Mallory Comerford and Simone Manuel finished off a time of 3:19.60, crushing the world record of 3:23.05 set by the Americans at the 2015 championships in Kazan, Russia.

“That last relay was a lot of fun,” Dressel said. “I wanted to lead it off even though it meant less to get ready for it. It was such a blast.”

The whole night was.