BUDAPEST, Hungary — Caeleb Dressel became the first swimmer to win three gold medals on a single night at the world championships Saturday.
America’s newest star pulled off a stunning triple play, racing three times during the course of about two hours — and winning every time.
Earlier Saturday, Katie Ledecky cruised to a victory in the 800-meter freestyle for her fifth gold medal at the world championships.
Dressel started with a victory in the 50-meter freestyle, came back about a half hour later to nearly break Michael Phelps’ world record in the 100 butterfly, and closed the night by leading off a world-record performance in the mixed 4×100 free relay.
“Man, that was a lot of fun,” the 20-year-old Floridian said.
Dressel now has six gold medals in the championships, putting him in position to tie Phelps’ record of seven golds at the 2007 worlds in Melbourne, Australia. He will close the meet Sunday night on the 4×100 medley relay team.
“Two more laps to go,” Dressel said with a smile.
He even managed to overshadow Ledecky, who won the 800-meter freestyle in 8 minutes, 12.68 seconds, which was nearly 8 seconds off her world record at last summer’s Rio Games.
Yet Budapest will be remembered as a bit of a disappointment for Ledecky, the star of the 2016 Olympics, who settled for silver in the 200 free and didn’t come close to breaking any of her personal bests.
“I’ve never walked away from a season completely satisfied, even last year,” she said. “I can really take what I’ve learned and use it moving forward. It gets me really excited. If that was my bad year for the next four years, then the next couple years are going to be pretty exciting.”
Dressel has emerged as the breakout performer of the championships, with a bit of help from the relatively new mixed relays. Two of his golds…