Caeleb Dressel and Simone Biles have been two of the most talked about members of Team USA during the Tokyo Olympics — for drastically different reasons.
Dressel, who entered the Games as a two-time Olympic gold medalist that many saw as a potential successor to Michael Phelps, became a standout star as he picked up five more gold medals in Tokyo. While Biles, the most decorated American gymnast ever, shocked the world by withdrawing from every event final except Tuesday's balance beam.
Dressel shared his take on the situation with Craig Melvin on TODAY Monday.
“I don't know what is considered too much,” he said of the mental load athletes carry during the games. “Every individual is different. That's why I'm not going to speak on anyone else's behalf. That's why I'm OK with this call that Simone did. No one else's opinion matters, because they're not the one that's in her situation.”
Biles’ situation is that, in the midst of dealing with mental stress and anxiety, she began to suffer what gymnasts call the “twisties,” a condition in which an athletes loses air-awareness while performing a routine's many flips and spins.
“She's literally the best ever to do it, and then everyone wants to chime in,” the swim champ said. He then added a message to any of her detractors: “Just leave her alone.”
The 24-year-old noted, even for him, the pressure became overwhelming at times during the Tokyo Games.
“I've had a couple breakdowns,” Dressel explained. “It does pile up, but it's worth it.”
He demonstrated one particularly worth-it moment of emotion last week, when he broke down in tears upon seeing his family's reaction after he won his first gold medal.
But those tears actually helped lighten his load.
“I think you could physically see that the monkey hopping off of my back in that moment,” he recalled. “It was a huge relief.”
And as he continued in the competition, he was able to turn to someone who understood exactly what he was going through — his former teammate, Phelps.
“It’s really special,” he said of his relationship with the retired swim star. “I texted him more than my wife at these games.”
“I really leaned on him. And why would I not, you know?" he added. "He always told me, and he kept his word, if I needed anything, shoot him a text, give him a call.”