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American Swimmer Tears Up as National Anthem Plays After His Record-Breaking Performance

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Caeleb Dressel was pure gold Thursday.

Not just in the pool, where the American swimmer won a gold medal in the 100-meter freestyle, setting an Olympic record along the way.

As he stood on the podium and heard the strains of America’s “The Star-Spangled Banner,” he did not raise his fist, turn his back or indulge in a protest to show hate for his homeland.

The Florida native stood with his hand over his heart and wept tears of joy as he was overcome with the emotion of having achieved a dream few athletes can ever experience.

“I don’t know if it’s set in yet,” he said according to Fox News. “Right now, I’m just kinda …. It’s a really tough year. It’s really hard. So to have the results here … It really came together so I’m happy.”


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The emotion was obvious.

Dressel has won gold three times before as part of a relay team, according to Fox — two at the Rio Games in 2016 and one already in Tokyo.

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But this was his first solo gold medal.

“It is different,” Dressel said of racing individually as opposed to a relay, according to The Washington Post.

“I didn’t want to admit it, but now that I did it, I can. It’s a lot different — you can’t rely on anyone else. It’s just you and the water. There’s no one there to bail you out. It’s tough.”


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Dressel said he knew he came to Tokyo with expectations that he would help the United States come away with victories.

“Pressure is fine,” he told the Post. “It’s when that pressure turns into stress that it becomes a problem … I know my name is thrown out there. I understand it. [But] it’s up to me whether I turn it into stress.”

Dressel said he lingered in the pool when the race was over, even though the only ones cheering were his teammates.

“I just really wanted to take hold of that moment and enjoy it,” he said, according to The Associated Press. “I don’t want to just surpass any moment because I’m used to it. I don’t want to get immune to the feeling that racing offers me.”

As he stood on the podium with eyes brimming, Dressel wore a bandana that had belonged to his high school mentor  — math teacher Claire McCool, who died in December 2017. As the music ended, he blinked rapidly, evidently to clear his vision.

After his race, Dressel spoke with his wife, Meghan and others at a watch party over a video call. “Love you guys, thank you,” he said, according to NBC.

And when all that was over, Dressel went back to the pool and set an Olympic record in winning his heat in the 100-meter butterfly competition, according to NBC.

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