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Caeleb Dressel finishes 2nd, 3rd in first races back from swimming break

Caeleb Dressel

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 12: Caeleb Dressel looks on after the Men’s 100 LC Meter Butterfly A Final during day one of the 2023 Speedo Atlanta Classic at McAuley Aquatic Center on May 12, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Caeleb Dressel finished second in the 100m butterfly and third in the 50m freestyle at this past weekend’s Atlanta Classic, his first swim meet in 11 months.

Dressel, a seven-time Olympic gold medalist, competed for the first time since withdrawing during last June’s world championships on unspecified medical grounds and then taking at least two and a half months off from swimming.

He placed second in Friday’s 100m fly behind Canadian Josh Liendo, the 2022 World Championships bronze medalist. Liendo, who trains at the University of Florida like Dressel, won in 51.79 seconds, followed by Dressel in 52.41.

Dressel was then third in Saturday’s 50m free behind another Florida Gator, Macguire McDuff, and Liendo. The meet announcer said McDuff clocked 22.42 with Liendo at 22.50 and Dressel at 22.57.

Dressel also was the fourth seed for the last event of the meet, Sunday’s 100m free final, but did not contest it after racing in the morning preliminary heats. It is more common for swimmers to skip finals on the last day of a meet than other days.

Dressel’s finals times rank him eighth in the U.S. this year in the 100m fly and outside the top 10 in the 50m free, according to USA Swimming’s database.

But Dressel’s times in Atlanta have less relevance given his long break, the fact that Atlanta is an early season meet with a month and a half until nationals and that Dressel has in the past made significant time drops come the major championship meets.

At nationals in late June, the top two per individual event are in line to qualify for July’s world championships in Fukuoka, Japan. It’s expected that the top six in the 100m and 200m frees will make the team for relays.

At last June’s worlds, Dressel withdrew in the middle of the eight-day meet. He had taken gold in each of his first two finals -- the 4x100m free relay and the 50m fly.

He last provided a detailed update on his career on Sept. 4, saying he was happy, had not swum since worlds and missed swimming. He ended the social media post with the line, “I’ll be back.”

In recent months, Dressel’s social media posts indicated that he returned to swim training. He also took part in a USA Swimming relay camp in Austin, Texas, in late April.

Dressel is the reigning Olympic champion in the 100m fly and the 50m and 100m frees, joining Michael Phelps and Mark Spitz as the only men to win three individual swimming events at one Olympics. He won two relay golds both in 2016 and in 2021.

He is also the world record holder in the 100m fly and, aside from the since-banned super-suit era, the fastest man in history in the 50m free.

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