Caeleb Dressel hails Nathan Adrian as Team USA wins relay gold at FINA World Championships

Adrian crowned world champion in Gwangju, South Korea just seven months after testicular cancer diagnosis.

By Andrew Binner

On a night of swimming upsets and world records at the 2019 FINA World Championships, perhaps the most emotional victory came from United States' Nathan Adrian in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

With Russia closing in, the five-time Olympic gold medallist anchored Team USA home to secure the title and a new World Championship record.

"I'm very grateful to be here racing," Adrian said. "It beats the heck out of being home, waiting for test results, waiting for another surgery."

This victory was about so much more than just a medal.

Seeing Adrian on top of the podium alongside teammates Caeleb Dressel, Blake Pieroni and Zach Apple, it's hard to believe that just seven months ago he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

"I still look up to him, especially with the cancer stuff this year and what he went though and then coming on and anchoring the USA relay team," Dressel told us after their victory in Gwangju.

"I remember watching him on TV win gold in (London) 2012, so it’s crazy that I’m now on the same team as him."

Nathan Adrian Team USA's guiding light

The relay races are the most prestigious events in the United States, and Adrian's inclusion was a testament to his strength of character in returning to the pinnacle of swimming.

After two surgeries he began physiotherapy, and the painstaking process of regaining his lost weight and power.

But on this night in Korea Adrian looked back to his best, and even his presence was enough to inspire his teammates.

"He spoke to us before but he really didn’t have to say much. Nathan’s been on so many teams, you just feel comfortable with him in the ready room, you just want to flock to him," Dressel continued.

"I don’t want to poke fun at Nathan but he’s 30 and he’s one of the older guys... so whenever it’s his time to leave, I hope it’s not any time soon, we have to be ready."

"The way he carries himself with pride into that relay. He really views it as 25 per cent on each guy and each guy has to do their part and I think that’s why we were standing on top of that podium tonight."

Where to follow the FINA World Championships

Adrian will likely take part in another relay race at the 18th FINA World Championships, but this performance alone should be enough book him a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Don't forget, you can see our day-by-day swimming schedule for the remainder of the World Championships here.

We are also running a daily live blog, keeping you up to date with the latest news and features on the ground in Gwangju.