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.

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“That’s a serious swim”

…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

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


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


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

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

And you are usually painfully optimistic.


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


How do you feel regarding your predictions regarding Simone Manuel?

crooked donald

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.


*Schooling does a 49.7 as cool down*


dressel is the new phelps for American swimming




He’s more like a men’s Natalie Coughlin. Phelps could do any event outside of breaststroke


While I get what you’re saying, don’t downplay Coughlin’s versatility. She’s still the only person to qualify all available events for Olympic Trials in one year.


Actually the best comparison! Not necessarily gonna win gold in everything all the time,but always a medal threat and great for relays.


… Biondi, people. Biondi. 50-200 free, 100 fly.


Except he has a hella fast 100 breast short course with a 51 at a duel meet


Except he had a 1:02 and 2:11 100/200 breast when not even training specifically for those events.

The only thing he probably couldn’t have been an Olympic finalist in is 50free and 800/1500 free


He’s the Dressel of American swimming – he will cut his own path just fine.

Tea rex

Dressel is the Michael Andrew of bizarro USA swimming.


Wait for him to win an individual gold in world events then we will discuss.


Sorry Jay, the discussion has staryed and you have decided not to be in it.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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