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Caeleb Dressel secured his place as one of the standout stars of the Tokyo Olympics when the American won his fifth gold on Sunday, after admitting that he doesn't keep any of his medals to remind him of his feats.
"It's not about that for me," Dressel told NBC before his final golden onslaught to end a successful meet for Team USA.
In total, the Florida flyer won five gold medals in the pool - 50m and 100m freestyle, 100m butterfly, 4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley - to cap one of the greatest swimming performances in Olympic Games history.
"I don't keep any of that stuff [medals]," he added. "You guys should be jealous — I get to do the fun part, which is racing. I get to enjoy the race. I don't need a piece of metal to remind me of that. I got to enjoy it."
Dressel, 24, had come into the Tokyo Games with seven world titles but no individual Olympic wins under his belt after two relay titles in Rio.
“I tried to convince myself that worlds was the same, and it is the same competition; but it is a lot different here," he said on Sunday.
"I’m aware of that now, and I’ll stop lying to myself – it means something different to prepare for something that happens every four years to prepare for something that happens over 40 seconds and 20-something seconds.
"You have to be so perfect in that moment, especially as we had to have an extra year – we’ve had a five-year build-up and to be perfect. There is so much pressure in that one moment that your whole life boils down to a moment that takes 20 or 40 seconds. How crazy is that?
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“I wouldn’t tell myself during the meet, but it is absolutely terrifying, but it is really fun if you look at from a different perspective - it is something that boils down to a very specific moment of time in the universe and that just happens to be the Olympics.”
His medal haul - Dressel now has seven golds over two Olympics - underlined his stature with more comparisons to the great Michael Phelps, as the sport looks for a natural successor to swimming's own medal machine.
Dressel added: “I think the US has been so dominant for so long, to put my stamp on the sport is very special. Michael and Mark [Spitz]... of course, I don’t want to take away from anything I’ve done here (but) it is not my goal to beat anyone in particular. It is my goal is to fulfil my potential."
Dressel now joins Phelps, Spitz and Matt Biondi, along with East Germany's Kristin Otto, as the only athletes to win as many as five golds at a single Olympics in the pool.
Asked about his gruelling schedule over the last week in Tokyo, Dressel said he was "really good at hiding my emotions until I’m not."
He added: "I can put a pretty good show on before each race. But once I shut it off, it floods out.
"You can’t sleep right, you can’t nap, shaking all the time, you can’t eat. I think I literally lost 10 pounds, I’ll weigh myself and eat some food when I get back. It’s a lot of stress you put on your body, it’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Just because it’s bad, doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.
“I’m really glad to be done."
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