Caeleb Dressel leaves Tokyo with five gold medals and with the heavy weight of expectations off his shoulders. The 24-year-old U.S. swimmer and committed Christian also shares how trusting in God helps him deal with the intense pressure of competition.
Dressel, a co-captain of the American men’s swimming team, set two World Records and two Olympic Records at the 2020 Summer Games. Before heading home to Florida, the athlete opened up about the challenges and thrills of being in the world spotlight.
Caeleb Dressel’s Tattoo Is Inspired by Scripture
During his events, Caeleb Dressel was easy to spot, thanks to a large eagle tattoo on his left shoulder and chest. The design, he says, is based on a favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31. In previous competitions, the swimmer has written Bible references on his face.
In 2015, Dressel told the Baptist Standard, “It’s the reason I’m in the sport—not just to go fast times, but to inspire people and show them where I find my happiness with what God’s given me.”
Although he was raised in a Christian home, Dressel describes wrestling “with some mental demons” and his relationship with God during high school. He even quit swimming for six months. But when he emerged from that tough period and resumed the sport, Dressel says he “really just put all my trust in God and knowing that he’s going to take care of everything for me, good or bad.”
When Dressel attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, his faith was nurtured—and become more personal—at Campus Church of Christ. “I learned to see the light at the end of the tunnel and trust what God is doing, whether it be a rough point in your life or a top pinnacle in your life,” he says. “You’ve just got to take pauses and really trust what [God] is doing.”
Dressel also shares his faith via social media. One tweet, for example, states, “When you avail yourself of God’s grace and power, your comeback is always greater than your setback.”
Swimming Is What Caeleb Dressel’s ‘Meant to Do’
Of completing his events in Tokyo, Dressel says, “I’m proud of myself. I feel like I reached what my potential was here at these Games.” He also admits he’s “really glad to be done,” speaking openly about the intense pressure to succeed.
“This is not easy, not an easy week at all,” he says. “Some parts were extremely enjoyable. I would say the majority of them were not. You can’t sleep right, you can’t nap, shaking all the time. I probably lost 10 pounds. … It’s a lot of stress we put on the body.”
Journaling usually helps Dressel cope, but he says he was too exhausted to write in Tokyo. “Pressure is fine,” he says. “It is when you turn it into stress, that’s when it becomes a problem.” Although competing isn’t “the most enjoyable process,” he says, “every part of it is worth it.”
Swimming is “what I’m meant to do” and has led to great relationships and memories, says Dressel. “Swimming is my life, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is what I’m supposed to be doing, and God gave me the talent, and I’m going to do that for him, myself and my family and all my friends.” In February, Dressel married Meghan Haila, his former high school swimming teammate.