With Slowest Reaction In The Field, Dressel Splits 49.9 In Mixed Relay


Swimming in the final of the mixed 4×100 medley relay, American Caeleb Dressel registered a scintillating butterfly split as the U.S. won gold and shattered their prelim world record by a wide margin in 3:38.56.

Dressel, who brought his 100 fly best time down from 52.22 to 50.87 at U.S. Trials, split sub-50 in 49.92, the second time it’s been done in history. What’s even more amazing is that he did it despite registering a reaction time of just 0.42. That reaction was actually the slowest out of 24 swimmers in the final who had a relay exchange.

Comparatively, if we take Dressel’s RT from the 100 free semis (0.64), his split translates to a flat-start time of 50.14. That would make him the 3rd fastest man in history, and the fastest ever in a textile suit.

However, before we jump to conclusions we also must take into consideration the split was done in a mixed relay. On lead-off legs, swims aren’t official like they would be in a men’s or women’s relay, due to men and women swimming against one another being inconsistent than an all-male or all-female event.

Regardless of the official rules, Dressel’s swim was incredible. The only split ever faster than that was done by Michael Phelps, who split 49.72 on the medley relay in 2009 after setting the individual world record in 49.82. That meet also saw Milorad Cavic crack the barrier for silver in 49.95, but he didn’t have a relay opportunity to throw down a quick split.

Looking at ‘through the water’ times, subtracting reaction times, Phelps’ individual swim still reigns supreme at 49.13. Cavic was 49.23, and Phelps was 49.36 in the relay. Dressel’s split translates to 49.50.

Though reaction time doesn’t tell the whole story, and is obviously a keep component of the race, it’s the best metric available to compare relay swims and individual flat-start swims.

As we head towards the individual 100 fly, Dressel is set for a showdown with rival Joseph Schooling. However, Dressel will have a tough double for both the semis and the final, having the 50 free semi and final taking place not long before.

Schooling won the Olympic gold medal last summer in 50.39. With a reaction of 0.61, his translates to a 49.78.

The two have already gone head-to-head twice thus far in Budapest, with Dressel coming out on top in both the prelims and final of the 50 fly. He broke the American record in the semis in 22.76, ultimately placing 4th in the final. Schooling was 5th.

In This Story


  1. Pvdh says:

    “That’s a serious swim”

    • Gold Medal Mel Stewart says:

      …my 100 fly Dressel-prediction for worlds was–any improvement on his US World Trials time and just make the final. I saw that as success. I thought Dressel would be a factor in 100-fly later in the quad. That prediction feels anemic (right now) compared to power Dressel is generating.

      • Ex quaker says:

        Don’t want to jinx it, but 7 golds in Tokyo is seeming more and more possible…

        • dru says:

          with the mixed relays now in, 7 or even 8 golds or medals could be in play.. 5 relays and 3 individual events

          • Boknows34 says:

            There’s only 4 relays he can aim for. The mixed freestyle has not been added to the Olympics, just the mixed medley. Seven is certainly a realistic target.

        • Swimmer Thieroff says:

          One must remember that Dressel’s largest conondrum surrounding swimming 100 fly and 50 free at the Olympics is that the 50 free and 100 fly finals occur on the same nights in close proximity to one another. Were it not for that I’d say 7 golds could be quite possible.

      • Tom from Chicago says:

        And you are usually painfully optimistic.

      • Pvdh says:

        I didn’t think he’d be able to adjust his stroke so quickly.

      • Swimmerfromoverseas says:

        How do you feel regarding your predictions regarding Simone Manuel?

      • crooked donald says:

        Yeah, and Schooling not looking so sharp after that rough 100 free —- slower than his unshaved time in Austin. That rest=more power thing is not a thing when you haven’t put in the training.

  2. Chanzu says:

    *Schooling does a 49.7 as cool down*

  3. WahooWah says:

    dressel is the new phelps for American swimming

  4. Caleb says:

    It’s hard to be overoptimistic when it comes to Dressel but we can still make a distinction between potential and performance. As good as he looks in Budapest and over the past year, let’s wait at least til he wins his first individual medal before we start comparing him to Michael Phelps or Natalie Coughlin or any of the greats.

  5. willy beeman says:

    I don’t want our men and women to be doing extra races that IMO will not stand the test of time. The mixed relay is a sideshow and a distraction.

  6. Tomek says:

    If schooling looses to dressel he will understand what conger is going through when he swims against Joe

  7. Justin Thompson says:

    Schooling down to his last chance to medal ? in these WC and can’t be happy to see a multi medal contender pop a 49.9 split.

  8. Swimmer? says:

    I heard Schooling split 49.98 from a push yesterday after a 400 fly set and after he beat a shark too

    • Michael says:

      You know, while I’m all behind team dressel in this Dressel vs Schooling show, I wonder if any of you people commenting (doubting) the 100 fly practice time have spoken to either of the 2 coaches that timed it…

      • JUST SAYIN says:

        I think a lot of the jokes don’t stem from doubt but rather the fact he didn’t need to say it to the press and it seemed like he was just trying to one up Dressel

  9. Bob says:

    From a European perspective its between Dressel and King for most disliked Yank swimmer. Silly Dressel was trying to annoy Proud before the 50 fly. You can also see that Adrian cannot stand him.

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About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James is currently a university swimmer for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. He is studying economics. Along with swimming, he also loves hockey. He's in his 14th season as a competitive swimmer. Best Times - SCM (LCM) 50 FR - 24.56 (25.12) 100 FR - 53.58 (56.70) 200 FR - 1:56.07 (2:04.29) 1500 …

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