Caeleb Dressel's quest for a potentially historic Olympic performance is well on its way.
The 24-year-old advanced to the final for what would be his second individual event for the Tokyo Games Friday night at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, qualifying first in the 100-meter butterfly in 49.76. The time is the fastest ever on U.S. soil, passing his own prelims swim, and coming just .26 short of his own world record. Tom Shields, a 2016 Olympian in the event, is the No. 2 qualifier for the final with a 51.20.
Dressel set the world record, which Michael Phelps had owned for a decade, at the 2019 World Aquatics Championships. He went on to win a record eight medals -- six gold -- at the event.
In Tokyo, Dressel could become the fourth swimmer ever to win seven gold medals at one Games, joining Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps and Matt Biondi. Dressel qualified for Tokyo in the 100-meter freestyle earlier in the meet and is the favorite in the 50-meter freestyle. He would be the favorite to win all three events in Tokyo, and is expected to swim on at least three relays, with the potential for one more.
Dressel competed on two relays in Rio, taking the gold medal in both. Since Phelps' retirement after those Games, Dressel has taken over the reigns as the sport's biggest superstar -- though he's not one to relish in the spotlight.