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Caeleb Dressel says he doesn't keep his medals: 'I don't need a piece of metal to remind me of that'

INSIDER logo INSIDER 7/29/2021 (Scott Davis)
a man wearing sunglasses taking a selfie: Caeleb Dressel is focused on things beyond medals. Martin Meissner/AP Images © Martin Meissner/AP Images Caeleb Dressel is focused on things beyond medals. Martin Meissner/AP Images
  • American swimmer Caeleb Dressel told NBC he doesn't keep his medals.
  • Dressel said he loves the race itself, adding, "I don't need a piece of metal to remind me of that."
  • Dressel said he'll judge his success in the Olympics by whether he learned anything.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Team USA swimmer Caeleb Dressel has four Olympic gold medals to his name already - two from Rio 2016, and two from this week. He could win four more in the four races he has left to swim at Tokyo 2020.

But according to Dressel, who has 15 world championship medals in total, medals aren't important to him. In fact, he told NBC that he doesn't even keep his medals.

"It's not about that for me," Dressel said of winning medals. "I don't keep any of that stuff. 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 also described his outlook on what would make the Olympics successful for him.

Video: Hoda Kotb goes behind the scenes of Olympic gymnast Suni Lee’s gold medal win (TODAY)


"If I learn something from the meet to move forward into next year, if I learn something about myself, as a man, as a person, as an athlete, as a swimmer, I'll be happy with it," Dressel told NBC.

Dressel isn't necessarily alone in this thinking; plenty of swimmers chase measures of success that extend beyond a medal. Hungarian butterfly swimmer Kristof Milak, for instance, bemoaned not setting a new world record in the 200-meter butterfly final, despite still winning gold.

"I didn't swim for the medal, but for the time," Milak said. "I wanted to swim a personal best and a personal best for me means the world record. And that wasn't a world record so I am a little bit disappointed."

Dressel doesn't share that exact same mindset, but he does seem to value the journey to success as much as the outcome.

"I think greatness is found within mundanity," Dressel said. "Those boring little ticks throughout the day - I call it putting pennies in the bank, my coach calls it putting tools in the toolbox - I think that's where greatness is found. People wanna dream up this big, giant goal without putting stepping stones along the way. I think, for me, that's what gets you to that giant goal."

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