Caleb Dressel jumps higher than most basketball talents in America. Even before he even starts, he shows where his great talent lies. From a stationary position, the 25-year-old American forcefully jumps barefoot on the wet pool floor. At over five feet tall, it’s a breathtaking jump for an athlete who won seven Olympic gold medals in the pool.
Oddly enough, Dressel doesn’t win his matches in the water, but out of it. The sprinter, often compared to swimming legend Michael Phelps, has a unique start. His rivals have no chance of doing the first trick. Also at Pieter van den Hoogenband Zwemstadion in Eindhoven, where Dressel is showing his starting style in this weekend’s International Swimming Association commercial swimming competition finals, he’s always at half body length after an explosion of power on the block and effective underwater kicks.
Dressel owes his good start to his extensive education in his youth, he says after his Cali Condors lost the final to the Energy Standard. I didn’t particularly train for jumping before swimming, but I did all kinds of sports in my youth that I benefit from now. I played basketball a lot, but I was especially good at volleyball. This is where I got that jumping power.
Former swimming coach Jacco Verharen admires Dressel’s performance. When he’s jumping in the air like that before the start, you don’t really know what you’re seeing. Then he does the same in the block. Nobody hits him after the start. Verhaeren compares the characteristics of a swimmer with those of basketball players and top runners in athletics. “He has a special kind of strength, and I call that strength. You don’t have to be able to move a lot of weight, but you have to be able to move a certain weight very quickly. He can do that at first and that’s very unique in swimming.”
Dressel became an Olympic champion in Tokyo in the 50 and 100 freestyle, in the 100-meter butterfly, as well as the relay in the 4×100 freestyle and 4×100 medley. It has one of the fastest reaction times in the world. When you fire the starting pistol, his toes leave the starting block well within 0.65 seconds to compete with the best starting block in the world. The American regularly shows reaction times of 0.59 and 0.61. And while some competitors lean backwards wrapping their fingers around the block before diving, Dressel keeps his body inclined toward the water as much as possible. Logical, he says. If you stand further back, you have to go the extra distance, right? This only takes time, so you shouldn’t want to.
Almost no spots
While jumping, Dressel takes his arms in the air laterally to generate extra speed. When his fingertips touch the water, he glides diagonally downward like a diver with almost no spots.
Next, his second attribute comes in handy with butterfly kicks. In his youth, young Dressel spent hours studying videos of Michael Phelps’ effective leg stroke underwater. Swimming underwater is the fastest, so the best swimmers wriggle as long as possible like a fish to a fifteen-meter point, as the rules require it to surface. “Phelps did something a little different with the kicks,” Dressel says. “He can keep his upper body completely still. I move a little from my chest to my toes, but with my body proportions, this fits me better.
Phillips was de Nature freak With its highly mobile joints and long arms, its wingspan is eight centimeters longer than its body size. Dressel is three centimeters shorter than Phelps at six feet. “Dressel also has relatively short legs and a longer upper body, which is especially useful for butterfly stroke, as it can maintain the perfect rhythm of the arms and legs,” Verharen says. “Phelps was the best at swimming techniques, but Dressel is the real underwater king.”
In his world title in the 100-meter freestyle in 2019, Dressel completed the first fifteen meters in 5.1 seconds. Top Australian sprinter Kyle Chalmers, who finished second, needed 5.5 seconds. The two were also at the games held in Tokyo on King No. 1 and 2.
The real nerd
Remarkably, Dressel herself describes Chalmers as the best swimmer in the world. “If you want to learn how to swim the Race 100 for free, watch Kyle,” Dressel says in one of his videos on his YouTube channel. The Florida runner posts extensive analysis of his private competitions online. “I’m a real geek when it comes to the technical stuff in swimming,” says Dressel from Eindhoven. This is what makes it so much fun for me after all these years. There is always something that could be improved.
Behind the computer, he does not look like a glutton from a pigeon, who painted his left arm and part of his shoulder with an eagle, a bear and a crocodile. On his right leg is an outline of an upcoming project. From his thigh to his ankle, a wild western look is drawn with a cactus, a skeleton of a cowboy, and flowers. You just need to color it.
With old-fashioned round glasses on his nose, Dressel tells us on YouTube what’s wrong with matches. About his race in Tokyo where he took the Olympic title on the King’s number: ‘Look, I’m breathing again before the tipping point. My head was hanging on the side road for a long time. About his world title at the World Cup in 2019 as he took the world record in the 100 butterfly from Phelps: “You idiot, I lift my chin too far after the start. Why do I do that, the water doesn’t go anywhere, does it? ”
Now that Dressel is finished in Eindhoven, he’s back home to rest. He is tired. He then plunged into the water with a new coach, Suriname’s first Olympic champion Anthony Neste. What does he hope to learn from it? Dressel: A lot. This is the beauty of swimming. It is never perfect. Things can always be better.
Fimke Hemskerk waving victory
Femke Heemskerk ended her impressive swimming career Saturday in the International Swimming League commercial swimming competition, winning her Energy Standard team. In Eindhoven I plunged into the water again. Back in the relay, the swimming number where she has often outdone herself as a team. And now? “Relax,” says Heemskerk, who wants to think about her future in the coming months. She sees opportunities for a role as a coach. Heemskerk has been particularly successful in the relay, swimming several titles with the Dutch swimming team. The quartet, which won the Olympic title in Beijing in 2008 in the 4×100 freestyle, has been unbeatable for years. Heemskerk has had a career full of ups and downs in which she has long searched for individual success. She succeeded at the 2014 World Short Course Championships, winning the world title in the 100th freestyle, and this year when she became European champion at the same distance.
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