Michael Phelps, you've got company.
Caeleb Dressel won his seventh gold medal of the World Championships on Sunday with another dominating swim in the 4x100-metre medley relay.
Twenty-four hours after becoming the first swimmer to win three golds in one night at a major international meet, Dressel joined Phelps in another elite club: seven golds at the second-biggest meet after the Olympics.
Phelps was the first to do it at the 2007 worlds in Melbourne, Australia — a prelude to his unprecedented eight golds the following year at the Beijing Olympics.
Dressel matched the feat along the banks of the Danube, emerging as America's next swimming sensation.
"We're seeing a star being born," teammate Matt Grevers said.
The 20-year-old University of Florida student won three individual gold medals in the 50m, 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly, plus four relays golds in the 4x100m freestyle, 4x100m mixed freestyle, 4x100m mixed medley and Sunday's 4x100m medley.
It put him level with US legends like Phelps, Ryan Lochte, who won five worlds golds in 2011, and Mark Spitz, who win seven golds at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
"This is probably one of the top-five best swim meets ever by an American male -- the other four going to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte," said the USA's Olympic backstroke champion Ryan Murphy.
"To be in that company is no small achievement, hopefully this is just the beginning for him and he can have a really great career."
Dressel's feat -- especially his jaw-dropping treble of golds over 98 minutes on Saturday night -- is all the more remarkable given that he was virtually unheard of, even in the swimming community, before these Budapest championships.
"I don’t even know if he went to the Olympics last year? He has definitely taken a really big step this year," admitted Sweden's sprint queen Sarah Sjostrom.
"I'm pretty tired, but, you know, it's been a good season, a good year, and to put together a seven-day meet, it's a really nice feeling," Dressel said. "There's a lot more that goes into this than just the seven days that people see, so I'm very happy to be done."
USA finished with 18 golds and 38 medals overall — a huge improvement over the previous worlds two years ago in Kazan, where the Americans managed just eight golds and 23 medals.
But this meet will be remembered as Dressel's coming-out party.
He won the 50 and 100 freestyle, and nearly took down Phelps' world record in the 100 butterfly. Dressel was a beast on the relays, swimming both the free and fly.
Phelps' feat at worlds still stands supreme since five of his seven golds were in individual events, and he didn't have the benefit of the mixed relays. Dressel won a pair of golds in that relatively new race, which he was quick to point out after his three wins Saturday.
But the comparisons to the most decorated athlete in Olympic history are sure to pick up steam heading into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Dressel swam the fly in the final event of the meet, taking over for the third leg with the Americans facing a slight deficit after world record-holder Adam Peaty pushed Britain ahead on the breaststroke.
Dressel surged to the front with a down-and-back time of 49.76 — the only butterfly swimmer to break 50 seconds. Nathan Adrian took over for the freestyle anchor with a comfortable lead, pulling away to win in 3 minutes, 27.91 seconds. Britain settled for the silver, more than a second behind.
When Adrian touched, Dressel hugged his other teammates, Grevers and Kevin Cordes. As everyone else walked off deck, Dressel lingered a bit, watching a replay of the race on the video board.
It must have seemed more than a little surreal.
"I've never had had it happen," Dressel said, "so I don't really know what to say.
To the surprise of no one, he was named the top male swimmer of the meet. The female award when to Sweden's Sjostrom, who capped off a stellar performance of her own with a bit of redemption in the 50m freestyle.
"I'm going to take a little break," he said. "Just enjoy myself, you know."
He certainly earned it.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: Aug 01, 2017 15:21 PM | Updated Date: Aug 01, 2017 19:24 PM