Caeleb Dressel: Hype, pressure, expectation.
It's all in day's work for Team USA's latest swim sensation.
“I don’t care about being the next whatever”
- Caeleb Dressel
At 20-years-old Dressel already had 2 Olympic gold medals and 7 World Championship titles that he won at the Budapest 2017 world championships - equalling Phelps' record.
It was the moment when Dressel became the USA's 'Next Big Thing'.
Now two years later he is dazzling the crowd at the 2019 World champs in Gwangju, Korea.
There is even talk equalling Phelps' incredible record of 8 gold medals from 8 at Beijing 2008 is possible at Tokyo 2020.
Even his dog Jane - a black labrador - is better off the blocks than most of the rest of us:
Caeleb Dressel: Favourite
While Jane helps Dressel relax and takes his mind off swimming between training and meets, he's on his own when it comes to race time.
Named Male Swimmer of the Meet in 2017 with seven victories, including three individual golds in the 100m butterfly, 50m freestyle, and 100m freestyle, Dressel has set a high bar for himself.
But the numbers are on his side.
The Floridian is the fastest in the world this year in the 100m butterfly, and has been at the top of the world in the 50m and 100m freestyles too, making him one of the top favourite in all of these races at Tokyo 2020.
His prowess over short distances makes him the perfect relay team player.
Things look good, but it hasn't been as easy as it seems.
"An ugly downward spiral of self-doubt"
A difficult time in 2018 tested his character.
Changes in Dressel's life have had a big impact, the end of college life and the beginning of his professional career were definitely the biggest.
At the University of Florida, his swimming feats became a thing of local lore, the lad from down the road was in his element, winning 10 individual NCAA titles to become the most successful 'Gator' ever, even surpassing fellow alumni Lochte.
He left on a high too, setting three record times in the NCAA Championships in March.
But nothing lasts forever.
Three days later Dressel went pro and began a very different chapter, away from the fun and frolics of college life and into the serious business of professional swimming.
Dressel began training in Gainesville - still Florida, just not the University of Florida.
“I think for Caeleb, he really missed being part of the team, he really missed racing short course because that’s where he thrives the most,” said Elizabeth Beisel according to the Wall Street Journal, Beisel is a retired three-time Olympian who trained with Dressel in Florida.
Consequences of this transition were visible in the results:
A poor U.S. nationals in July 2018 and an uninspiring Pan-Pacs in August saw him come in for criticism.
The sprinter found himself in “an ugly downward spiral of self-doubt.”
Not even six gold medals and three silver at the Short Course World Championships in December were enough to raise his spirits, Dressel - ever the perfectionist - was furious with himself:
“A lot of people would say it’s not that bad, but I’m like ‘No, it was horrible because it’s not what I wanted.’ ”
"I aim for three objectives a day"
Putting the summer behind him, 2019 sees a much brighter outlook, Dressel is mentally stronger, more disciplined and better organised.
In June when he looked back on that Short Course Worlds in Hangzhou, China, six months later, he was much more measured, saying “I am pretty hard on myself, it really wasn’t that bad of a meet.”
In January 2019 he told the Team USA website how he trains and prepares for so many different events.
By breaking it all up into micro-goals.
“I like to aim for three objectives per day,” said Dressel, “I have this habit where I will just go and go and go and try to get as much done as I can, and I’ll just start making stuff up to do, so I try to limit myself."
"It lets me go to bed feeling like I’ve gotten a lot accomplished.”
Setting limits and goals every day are key for the USA star, and so is giving himself time for the things he loves: family, the Jacksonville Jaguars, smashing his drum kit, his girlfriend Meghan Haila, and, of course, Jane.
With a defining 12 months coming up, Dressel looks ready to join the long list of USA swim greats.
The hype, the pressure, the expectations, he just deals with it.
Or doesn't even think about it.
“The brighter the lights get, the better he performs,” says coach Gregg Troy.
Caeleb Dressel is ready to make history, but it'll be history made in his own name.