Caeleb Dressel Breaks 50 Freestyle Olympic Record, Wins 4th Gold Medal


Caeleb Dressel has delivered his 4th gold medal performance of the meet, topping the podium in the men’s 50 freestyle with a 21.07 to take out the Olympic record. The mark was held previously by Brazil’s Cesar Cielo who swam a 21.30 for gold back in 2008.

Dressel was close to that 21.30 record during his first 2 50 freestyles in Tokyo where he hit a 21.30 in the finals and 21.42 during semis.

Dressel was joined on the podium by 2012 Olympic Champion Florent Manaudou and Brazil’s Bruno Fratus who touched with a 21.55 for silver and 21.57 for bronze, respectively. Dressel won the event by 0.48 seconds which is the largest margin by which a men’s Olympic 50 freestyle has been won in history.

Notably, the amount of time between Dressel’s and Manaudou’s finish here is more than the sum of the last 6 Olympic 50 freestyle victory margins.

Gold Silver Margin
Seoul 1988 Matt Biondi, USA – 22.14 Tom Jager, USA – 22.36 0.22
Barcelona 1992 Aleksander Popov, Unified Team – 21.91 Matt Biondi, USA – 22.09 0.18
Atlanta 1996 Aleksander Popov, Russia – 22.13 Gary Hall, Jr., USA – 22.16 0.13
Sydney 2000
(TIE) Anthony Ervin, USA – 21.98/Gary Hall, Jr., USA – 21.98
Athens 2004 Gary Hall, Jr., USA – 21.93 Duje Draganja, Croatia – 21.94 0.01
Beijing 2008 Cesar Cielo, Brazil – 21.30 Amaury Leveaux, France – 21.45 0.15
London 2012 Florent Manaudou, France – 21.34 Cullen Jones, USA – 21.54 .20
Rio 2016 Anthony Ervin, USA – 21.40 Florent Manaudou, France – 21.41 0.01
Tokyo 2020 Caeleb Dressel, USA – 21.07 Florent Manaduou, France – 21.55 0.48

The widest margin that had been seen in the event’s Olympic history prior to Dressel’s win was the 0.22 seconds that Matt Biondi won by in 1988. During the first-ever Olympic 50 freestyle final, Biondi won with a 22.12 to American teammate Tom Jager.

2020 silver medalist Florent Manaudou of France now holds the third-highest win margin of 0.20 seconds from back in 2012 when he took gold with a 21.34 to American Cullen Jones‘ 21.54. Manaudou has now delivered a podium finish in the 50 freestyle at 3 straight Games, having followed his 2012 win with a silver medal in 2016.

Manaudou’s 2016 time of 21.41 for silver was just 0.01 seconds slower than Anthony Ervin of the USA who won gold with a 21.41. That 0.01 is tied for the narrowest margin in Olympic 50 freestyle history that Gary Hall Jr. won with in 2004. Hall won the event with a 21.93 to Duje Draganja of Croatia’s 21.94.

This marks Caeleb Dressel‘s 4th gold medal of the Games, adding to his 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly, and 4×100 freestyle relay wins. This win also represents the 6th Olympic gold medal that Dressel has won, having contributed to the USA’s 4×100 free and 4×100 medley relay wins in 2016.

While he downed Cielo’s Olympic record, Dressel wasn’t quite fast enough to beat the Brazilian’s 2009 world record of 20.91. The swim was Dressel’s 3rd fastest performance in history and was the 5th fastest 50 freestyle swim in history. He now holds 3 of the top 6 times in the history of the event.

Men’s 50 Freestyle All-time Performances

  1. Cesar Cielo (BRA) – 20.91 (2009)
  2. Cesar Cielo (BRA) – 21.02 (2009)
  3. Frederick Bousquet (FRA) – 20.94 (2009)
  4. Caeleb Dressel / Caeleb Dressel (USA) – 21.04 (2019/2021)
  5. Caeleb Dressel (USA) – 21.07 (2021)
  6. Cesar Cielo (BRA) – 21.08 (2009)
  7. Ben Proud (GBR) – 21.11 (2018)
  8. Caeleb Dressel (USA) – 21.15 (2017)

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Jack Spitser
9 months ago

Could be because of the lack of fans. It was pretty quiet on deck by Olympic standards.

9 months ago

Florent Manaudou is now one of the only two men who were able to get three medals in the 50 free in consecutive games, the other one being Gary Hall Jr !
He has announced tonight that he will definitly swim in Paris !

Last edited 9 months ago by CasualSwimmer
NOT the frontman of Metallica
Reply to  CasualSwimmer
9 months ago

I absolutely loved seeing him so happy over his medal as opposed to Rio. The man seems to have matured and gained perspective and happiness in swimming.

Reply to  NOT the frontman of Metallica
9 months ago

I think a big reason was him being the favorite in Rio vs big underdog against Dressel here.

Slevin Kalevra
9 months ago

How come no one on this site is talking about how MA swam or his very scientific training? Why is that? I thought at the very least with all his training at “race pace” his 50 would be better. The kid has talent but his Dad coach just got destroyed by a guy that does 50-60k weeks. How about his last 50 free of his 200 IM. Can anyone explain why the training he did did not work.

Reply to  Slevin Kalevra
9 months ago

a typical Greg Troy/Bob Bowman/Eddie Reese’s base of training has the countless pace sets of various distance that build endurance, the top end speed work/starts that ramps up closer to big meets, and the weight room/dry land work. During a taper a swimmer gets to focus less on every but top end speed, which overcompensates their recovery and lets them peak for a meet. MAs dad seems to only focus on the top end speed, everyday, which means he’s also peaked, everyday. It’s given him amazing speed, coupled with his undeniable talent, which has him ready to hit top times, once or twice. Without the endurance, or proper technique which shows in his 200 IM free, over the course of… Read more »

M d e
Reply to  Slevin Kalevra
9 months ago

He is a single data point.

A large number of swimmers that train under more ‘traditional’ (hate the term when used by either side of this debate) philosophy also had worse than expected meets.

There is no evidence to actually suggest Michael Andrew would be better under a different coach, and plenty to suggest he actually wouldn’t be given the large amount of success he is having already.

Sport is hard, everyone else wants to win as well.

9 months ago

i want dressel swim 200m individual medley

Reply to  DDU
9 months ago

Me too, I think he could’ve won it this year!

Texas Tap Water
9 months ago

Manadou saved France from total embarrassment.

What happened to them in the last few years?

Reply to  Texas Tap Water
9 months ago

Every great talent that had developped retired around the end of Rio (or London for the older ones like Alain Bernard). Manaudou is the only one of them who came back from retirement (he’s the only french individual medalist in Rio and the only french medalist in Tokyo)

9 months ago

one performance is absent in your ranking:
Cielo 21.02 from prelims of the champs Cielo did break WR.

beach bum j343
9 months ago

Was really hoping he would break the WR or least go into 20 high.

Reply to  beach bum j343
9 months ago

Ditto (on behalf of almost every swimming fan)