2020 Swammy Awards: Male Swimmer of the Year Caeleb Dressel

To see all of the 2020 award winners, click here.


Caeleb Dressel had a lot of eyes on him heading into 2020. On the heels of his six gold medal haul at the 2019 World Swimming Championships, things were looking good for Dressel come the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In what would be the first Olympic Games this century without Michael Phelps, Dressel had been primed to take over as the United States’ leading man.

Dressel began 2020 just as expected, posting some of the world’s fastest times at the TYR Pro Swim Series back in March. There, he won both the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly, posting times of 21.51 and 50.92, respectively. Those two swims were each the fastest swim of the year worldwide at the time and remained there for the remainder of 2020.

While that was a solid start for Dressel, it was also essentially the end of his long course season. Shortly after the Pro Swim Series wrapped up, the onslaught on COVD-19 induced cancellations began. That meant that Dressel, along with fellow US national teamers, was suddenly out of the pool and out of competition. Eventually, the decision came that the 2020 Olympic Games would not occur in 2020 and were instead postponed until 2021.

After that decision had been made, the question left looming in the minds of swimming fans everywhere was: “When will we get to see Caeleb Dressel race again?”

In the summer of 2020, the answer to that question was revealed to be during the 2020 International Swimming League’s second season. The league developed their 2020 ‘bubble’ in which all 10 teams would travel to Budapest, Hungary to live, train, and compete in isolation from the outside world. As he was in the first edition of the ISL, Dressel was one of the most anticipated names to watch in the second. He lived up to the hype, winning 24 of his 35 races this season.

100 Butterfly 50 Freestyle 50 Breaststroke 100 Freestyle 100 IM 50 Butterfly 50 Breaststroke Skins
Match 1 2nd 2nd 1st 1st 1st
Match 4 1st 1st 3rd 2nd 1st 2nd 2nd
Match 8 1st 1st 3rd 1st 1st 1st 3rd
Match 10 1st 1st 1st 1st 2nd
Semifinal 2 1st 1st 1st 1st 2nd
Final 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 5th

Considering that he didn’t finish anywhere outside of the top 3 except for one single skins race, Caeleb Dressel handily won the title of Match MVP at match 4, match 8, match 10, semi-final 1, the final. Considering those 5 match wins, Dressel was a shoo-in for the season-wide MVP title which he wound up winning by over 100 points. His 463.50 points were unmatched by any other swimmer with Lilly King trailing for second place with 350 and Beryl Gastaldello for third with 340.50.

While takes an impressive swim just to win an ISL event, Dressel made four of his swims even more incredible by breaking world records in them. His first time doing so was at the Condors’ semifinal at which he won the 100 IM and became the first-ever person to crack the 50 second mark, breaking Vlad Morozov’s previous WR of 50.26. He followed up his semi-final performance with an even faster swim at the final, lowering the record to a 49.28.

By the time he had swum the 100 IM at the final, it was actually his third world record of the meet. One day before, Dressel set both the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly world records. In the 50, he took 0.08 seconds off his own 2019 world record, and in the 100 fly, he became the first-ever sub-48 butterflier, lowering Chad le Clos’ 48.08 WR to a 47.78.

Unlike the female victor of this award; Kaylee McKeown, Caeleb Dressel was certainly a frontrunner for this award going into 2020. What we didn’t expect, however, was the way he would earn it. Instead of multiple gold medals at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and perhaps some long course world records, his 2020 resume consisted of 24 individual ISL victories, 463.50 MVP points, 5 match MVP titles, one season MVP title, and 4 short course world records.


In no particular order

  • Adam Peaty, Great Britain: Adam Peaty has certainly been a consistent force at the top of men’s swimming for many years and this year was no exception. Representing the London Roar at ISL 2020, Peaty was dominant in the 100 breast, winning the event multiple times and downing the world record first to a 55.49 and then to a 55.41. Peaty also won the 50 breaststroke skins 3 times this year and was an important member of London’s medley relays. Peaty ended the season as the 14th highest MVP point scorer.
  • Ilya Shymanovich, Belarus: This year’s European Male Swimmer of the Year, Ilya Shymanovich was perhaps even better than breaststroke allstar Adam Peaty. Shymanovich swam six sub-56 100 short course breaststrokes in just two months this year, including a 55.34 to take down Adam Peaty‘s newly set world record in the event. Shymanovich was an important asset for Energy Standard with the ISL, picking up some breaststroke wins for the team and ultimately ending the season in 12th place with 212 total MVP points.
  • Kliment Kolesnikov, Russia: A third world record breaker to wind up on this honorable mentions list, Kliment Kolesnikov had an incredible back half of his 2020 ISL season. His best swim this year came in the form of a 100 backstroke relay leadoff in which he hit a 48.58 to take down Xu Jiayu’s 48.88 mark from 2018. Kolesnikov also swam some incredible freestyle relay legs for Energy Standard, including a 45,25, 45.63, 45.76, and 45.79.

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2 years ago


2 years ago

Sun yang is the real SOTR. He defys all odds! No bans or drug tests can stop him!

2 years ago


2 years ago

No Sun Yang???

50M Pools Rule
2 years ago

I would have given it to Looze, personally.
But good choice nonetheless.

Brett Riley Lover
2 years ago

I really thought Brett Riley had it locked this year. #robbery #thehammer

Reply to  Brett Riley Lover
2 years ago

We need a recount. These votes reek of fraud. Possible foreign interference. Sad!

2 years ago

Surprised pikachu face

Reply to  LongJhon
2 years ago

comment image

Sun Yangs Hammer
2 years ago

Too OP. Devs pls nerf for next season