Caeleb Dressel, an American swimmer who won five gold medals and set world records, has been outspoken about his Christian faith, which he claims keeps him motivated.
On the top of his left shoulder is an eagle tattoo which symbolizes one of his favorite passages in the Bible, Isaiah 40: 31, which reads, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
"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," Dressel told the Baptist Standard following the 2015 U.S. Nationals.
According to CBN News, the gold medalist was brought up in a Christian family. Dressel said that his faith became deeper while he studied at the University of Florida and after he began to regularly attend a Gainesville church. He, too, took a break from swimming because he felt like he no longer liked it, but he eventually returned to the sport with renewed hope and faith in the Holy Spirit.
CBN News adds that at the Tokyo Olympics, the 24-year-old Florida native finished the 100-meter butterfly in 49.45 seconds, breaking his world record by .05 seconds. This was only two days after achieving an American record in the 100-meter freestyle. He also competed in the semifinals of the 50-meter freestyle.
"It's a really tough year, just really hard, so to have the results show up, I mean, it really came together, so I'm happy," Dressel told reporters following the race.
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) July 29, 2021
Why he stopped swimming in high school
According to the Baptist Standard, Dressel, who was in his final year of high school at the time, quit swimming for almost six months.
He confessed to wrestling with certain "mental demons" and struggling with his relationship with God during that time.
But he did ultimately return, both to swimming and to his faith in Christ.
"Swimming is my life, and I wouldn't want it any other way," he told the news outlet. "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."
Dressel quickly rose to prominence as a swimmer. In 2015 and 2016, he won consecutive NCAA national titles in the 50-yard freestyle, and he added another NCAA title in the 100-yard freestyle in 2016. He qualified for the Olympic roster after finishing second in the 100-meter freestyle at the 2016 Olympic trials.
Baptist Standard noted that aside from writing Scripture references on his face, Dressel frequently shares phrases and passages from the Scripture on his Twitter account. And in light of Dressel's struggles and triumphs, one tweet from a few months ago seems particularly related. It reads, "When you avail yourself of God's grace and power, your comeback is always greater than your setback."
According to the Associated Press, Dressel was considered to be one of the most anticipated athletes heading into the games, with many predicting him to be Michael Phelps's successor as the world's most outstanding male swimmer.
(Photo taken from Team USA on Twitter)