GWANGJU, South Korea — Caeleb Dressel made history — again — at the world swimming championships.
The American and a former standout at the University of Florida won three gold medals in a span of about two hours Saturday night, duplicating his feat from two years ago in Budapest, Hungary.
Dressel has six golds and seven medals overall with one night remaining in the meet. He tied Michael Phelps’ record of seven medals — all gold — at a single worlds in 2017.
“It was not easy in ’17, it was not easy this year,” the 22-year-old Floridian said. “I don’t want it to be easy, I really don’t.”
He capped his momentous night by leading off the victorious mixed 4×100-meter freestyle relay. Dressel joined Zach Apple, Mallory Comerford and Simone Manuel in setting a world record of 3 minutes, 19.40 seconds.
That lowered the mark of 3:19.60 set by the U.S. in 2017.
Manuel dueled with Australian anchor Bronte Campbell over the final 50. The American clocked 52 seconds to Campbell’s 52.36 to keep Dressel golden.
“I had a lot of help on that relay,” he said, pointing out that his 100 split of 47.34 would only have been good enough for bronze in the individual event. “Every time I do a race I always look for the bad.”
There wasn’t much to criticize on this night.
Dressel opened the evening with a win in the 50 free to complete a 50-100 free sweep. He touched in 21.04 seconds, bettering the championship record of 21.08 set by Brazil’s Cesar Cielo at the 2009 worlds in Rome during the height of the rubber suit era.
Bruno Fratus of Brazil and Kristian Gkolomeev of Greece tied for silver in 21.45.
Coming back just 34 minutes later, Dressel won the 100 fly in 49.66 a night after breaking Phelps’ world record in the semifinals.
“Caeleb was amazing,” said South Africa’s Chad le Clos, the bronze medalist in the fly.
On his three trips to the podium, Dressel tied a bandanna belonging to a late high school mentor onto the ribbon holding his medal. He stood with his right hand over his heart for the U.S. anthem.
“She loved me and I loved her, it’s as simple as that,” Dressel, declining to offer many details about the woman who influenced him. “That bandanna is just the last piece I have of her. I just wanted to bring her along for the journey.”
[Updated: 7-28-19, 10:20 a.m.] On Sunday night, Dressel stands alone in world championships history.
The American won his eighth medal Sunday, helping the U.S. to silver in the 4×100-meter medley relay after anchor Nathan Adrian got overtaken for gold in the closing meters.
One night after becoming the first swimmer to win three golds in one night at a worlds for the second time, Dressel set a record with eight medals, including six golds, at the biggest meet after the Olympics.
Two years ago in Hungary, Dressel tied Michael Phelps’ record of seven golds at a single worlds, including three in one night.
Dressel hauled the U.S. from fourth to first on his butterfly leg with a split of 49.28 seconds. Adrian found himself in a three-way fight with Britain and Russia coming down the stretch.
Dressel’s golds came in the 50 and 100 free, 50 and 100 butterfly, mixed 4×100 free relay and 4×100 free relay. His other silver was in the mixed 4×100 medley relay.
“He’s a phenomenal talent,” South Africa’s Chad le Clos said. “He seems to get better throughout the days.”
The U.S. team finished atop the medals table with 27, including a leading 14 golds. Australia was second with 19 and five golds.