Caeleb Dressel wins gold for United States men's 4x100 free relay at Tokyo Olympics

Clayton Freeman
Florida Times-Union
From right, Caeleb Dressel, Blake Pieroni and Bowe Becker celebrate after the United States team (including Zach Apple, in pool, not pictured) wins Sunday night's men's 4x100m freestyle relay final at the Tokyo Olympics.

One gold medal down for Caeleb Dressel.

Now, how many more to go?

The former Clay High School and University of Florida swimmer captured a gold medal, his first of the Games, leading the United States to the top of the podium in the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay on Sunday night at the Olympics in Tokyo.

Dressel led off the relay in 47.29, followed by Blake Pieroni, Bowe Becker and Zach Apple, in the American team's race to the wall in 3:08.97. Becker swam a particularly strong third leg in 47.44 to break open a contest that remained tight at the halfway point, and Apple finished it off in 46.69.

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Italy — including former Bolles swimmer Santo Condorelli, a former teammate of Dressel at club level — won the silver in 3:10.11, with Australia landing the bronze.

That marks the start of what figures to become an exceptionally busy week, and potentially a memorable medal collection, for Dressel.

The Green Cove Springs native already won two gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, both on United States relay teams — the 4x100 free relay and the medley relay.

Caeleb Dressel (right) celebrates with United States anchor leg swimmer Zach Apple after winning the men's 4x100m freestyle relay final.

“I felt good the whole way, I knew I had to get my hand in the wall first and get some clean water,” Dressel said. “And everyone did their job. It’s a relay for a reason, it’s four guys for a reason, it’s certainly not just me. It’s certainly not just one guy.”

The 24-year-old, tattooed Floridian swam the first leg in a blistering 47.26. Blake Pieroni and Bowe Becker kept the Americans out front before Zach Apple turned in an anchor leg of 46.69 to leave no doubt at the end.

“The scariest part was my leg for myself, because I had control over that," Dressel said. “I knew they were going to get the job done, I wasn’t scared at all. Especially when Zach hit the water. I saw him break out and I knew it was over.”

He still has multiple events, perhaps as many as six, on his Olympic schedule.

Dressel has already qualified for the 100 free, the 50 free and the 100 butterfly. He is also expected to race the men's medley relay and the newly-introduced mixed medley relay, and he is a possible candidate to race the 4x200 relay as well. It's not certain whether he will compete in that event.

Dressel's next scheduled individual event comes at 6:20 a.m. Tuesday morning, in the preliminary heats of the 100 free. 

He won seven gold medals at the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, then followed with eight medals (six gold, two silver) at the 2019 championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

Former Bolles School swimmer Ryan Murphy stayed on course in the men's 100 backstroke, winning his semifinal in 52.24 ahead of Australia's Mitch Larkin and Italy's Thomas Ceccon.

He enters Monday night's final with the top overall seed time, five-hundredths of a second better than Kliment Kolesnikov of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Murphy, the Olympic gold medalist in 2016 in the 100 back, 200 back and medley relay, sliced a second off his time from the preliminaries. He still holds the world record at the event.

Earlier in the session, another swimmer with Gators ties, Kieran Smith, qualified for the final in the men's 200 free. 

The USA Today Network contributed to this story.