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Team USA swimmer Caeleb Dressel teared up on the podium while the national anthem played after he secured his first individual gold medal Thursday in a thrilling, record-breaking win.
The star swimmer took the gold in the 100-meter freestyle with a time of 47.02, beating Australia’s Kyle Chalmers by just six-hundredths of a second and breaking the previous Olympic record set in the contest.
As the top three winners were honored on the podium, the Florida native was seen with his hand over his heart and his blue eyes welling up with tears while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played in the background.
In a post-race interview with NBC, Dressel choked up as he discussed his win.
“I don’t know if it’s set in yet,” the swimmer said when asked how he was feeling.
“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.”
Dressel has already won medals in team races both in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and in Tokyo, but Thursday’s race was his first individual gold.
“It is a lot different. I guess I thought it would be, I just didn’t want to admit to it,” he explained.
“It’s a lot tougher. You have to rely on yourself, there’s no one to bail you out.”
In the post-Michael Phelps era, Dressel has emerged as the most dominant American male swimmer, winning 13 gold medals in the 2017 and 2019 World Championships combined.