BUDAPEST • Caeleb Dressel of the United States heralded a new era in world swimming when he equalled the great Michael Phelps' feat of seven golds at a single World Championships as the 17th edition closed on Sunday.
The 20-year-old, who became the first swimmer to win three world golds in one session on Saturday, underlined his credentials as the world's fastest starter in breathtaking fashion at the Duna Arena when he broke away on the butterfly leg to give the US gold in the men's 4x100m medley relay.
Dressel's tally includes three individual titles in the 50m and 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly, plus four relay golds in the 4x100m freestyle, 4x100m mixed freestyle, 4x100m mixed medley and Sunday's 4x100m medley which puts him level with US legends like Phelps, who won seven golds at the 2007 Melbourne World Championships; Ryan Lochte, who won five world golds in 2011; and Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
He also helped the US to achieve their best World Championships haul, with 38 medals.
"This is probably one of the top-five best swim meets ever by an American male - the other four going to Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte," said US Olympic backstroke champion Ryan Murphy.
"To be in that company is no small achievement. Hopefully this is just the beginning for him and he can have a really great career."
However the enormity of the Florida student's achievements had yet to fully sink in.
"I've never had it happen so I don't really know what to say," he said. "I'm going to take a little break in Europe, go to Poland and Scotland and just enjoy myself.
"It was probably the most fun I've had in eight days. It was an absolute blast getting to do what I love."
Dressel said he was tired after a draining 48 hours. "I'm very happy to be done, pretty tired," he said. "It's been a good season, a good year, there are a lot more (factors) that go into this than what people see in seven days.
"It's great... I knew I had a chance in a few events and, of course, the real prize for America are the relays which are also a lot of fun. We didn't do so great at the 2015 championships, so to come here and, coming off Rio, do so well - the medal table speaks for itself."
The University of Florida student won the award for the best male swimmer at the championships. But before he went on holiday, Dressel sat for a maths test yesterday.
"It's probably going to go pretty bad," he said on Sunday. "I will probably be happy with a B-minus."
Dressel's feat - especially his jaw-dropping treble of golds in just 98 minutes on Saturday - is all the more remarkable given that he was virtually unheard of, even in the swimming community, before these Budapest championships, even though he won two relay golds at the Rio Olympics.
"I don't even know if he went to the Olympics last year. He has definitely taken a really big step this year," said Swedish sprint queen Sarah Sjostrom.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE