Caeleb Dressel Hit a Mark Monday That's a First in the History of Swimming

American swimmer Caeleb Dressel is a sprinter in the freestyle and butterfly who has become one of the best in the world in the 100-meter individual medley. He has top-tier experience with college, world championships and the 2016 Olympics. On Monday in Hungary, Dressel did something no other swimmer in history has ever done. Not even the great Michael Phelps.

Dressel became the first swimmer in history to break 50 seconds when he touched first in the International Swimming League race Monday in Budapest. Of all the great American swimmers—like Ryan Lochte or Neil Walker—who set world records in the 100 IM, none ever hit less than 50 seconds. Even Russia's Vladimir Morozov, who has held the 100 IM record since 2016, hasn't touched under 50.

Phelps held world records in the 200 IM and 400 IM, but never the 100 IM.

Dressel scorched the world record when he touched in 49.88 during the second semifinal, setting the world record and an American record in the process. The previous record was 50.26, held by Morozov, who hit the mark twice during 2018.

American swimmer Caeleb Dressel
Caeleb Dressel, shown here at the 2019 Toyota U.S. Open Championships in Atlanta, Georgia, broke a world record in the 100 IM on Monday in Hungary when he touched in 49.88 during the second semifinal, setting an American record in the process. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The individual medley is considered one of the toughest races because it combines all four disciplines (in order) of the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle, at 25 meters for each stroke.

The last American to hold the world record in the 100 IM was Ryan Lochte, who first set it during the semifinals of the 2008 World Championships (51.25). Lochte then broke that record the next day in the finals (51.15). Lochte's record would eventually be broken, but he regained the top time in the world at the 2012 World Championships with a 50.71 swim.

Morozov first broke the record at a 2016 World Cup race with a 50.60 swim. Morozov broke his own record twice more—tying the best of 50.26 once—and held the world record for more than four years before Dressel's feat on Monday.

Dressel didn't just set the new world record in the 100 IM on Monday, he also bested his own American record in the 100-meter freestyle in the early session when he touched in 45.20 seconds, breaking his old mark by two-hundredths of a second.

Dressel, 24, won two gold medals at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, one each in the 4x100 freestyle relay and the 4x100 medley relay. The University of Florida graduate also finished sixth overall in the 100 freestyle in Rio.

He's also won a slew of recent gold medals at the 2019 World Championships in the freestyle, butterfly and mixed medley. In 2016, he was the NCAA's Co-Swimmer of the Year.

Dressel is a favorite to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, which got postponed to 2021 because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.